RAIN or Shine's young, inexperienced players stood proud after surviving their ultimate test as the franchise won their breakthrough title by beating B-Meg, 83-76, in Game Seven of the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
Derailed twice after taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Elasto Painters finally got the job done as they withstood the grinding pressure to outduel B-Meg's battle-scarred stars before a crowd of almost 22,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I’m just happy. I know how it feels like to be a champion again,” said Painters coach Yeng Guiao, who boldly predicted after Game Two -- shortly after losing super-rookie Paul Lee to injury for the rest of the series -- that his young team would still win the title no matter what.
After five more games, several surprising twists and a lot of ups and downs in a bruising and emotional series, the words finally rang prophetic as Guiao savored his first title in six years and sixth overall.
"Dalawang bagay lang naman 'yan. Either magmumukha akong tanga or magmumukha akong genius," said Guiao in the din of the celebration. "Okay lang naman 'yun, pero alam ko nakatulong."
Jamelle Cornley, the less flashy of the two imports in the Finals but definitely the more efficient, led the way for the Painters with a double-double of 20 points and 14 boards.
Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood, who were disappointments in Games Five and Six when it appeared that the series was inevitably slipping from the Painters' grasp, couldn't have picked a better time to atone.
Norwood finally filled the void left by injured Lee as the Filipino-American playmaker scored 15 points and hauled down seven boards.
Chan, who went just 2-of-14 from three-point land in the Painters’ two previous losses, came away with 16 points, along with five boards, three assists and two steals. The performance was enough for the long-range assassin from Bacolod to swing the Finals MVP vote in his favor.
B-Meg import Marqus Blakely’s foul trouble also proved decisive in the decider. After the B-Meg import fouled out with just a little over three minutes into the fourth, the Painters never looked back as they showed enough poise down the stretch.
“I don’t think it was the turning point, but it was a big factor. It was an added bonus,” Guiao said.
The rebounds numbers also reflected how resolute the Painters were. Game Seven marked the first time in the series that the Painters won the rebounding battle, 53-49.
“We were just focused on rebounding,” Guiao said.
Supposedly the underdogs for appearing in the first Game Seven, let alone their first Finals, the Painters came out more prepared than the Llamados as they established an early double-digit lead in the first quarter.
After the Llamados came back and cut the deficit to just two at the half, the Painters mounted another run and erected their biggest lead at 10, 63-53, after a Norwood triple with 7:54 in the third.
RAIN OR SHINE 83 - Cornley 20, Chan 16, Norwood 15, Ibanes 8, Cruz 7, Belga 7, Arana 5, Tang 4, Buenafe 1, Jaime 0, Quinahan 0
B-MEG 76 - Yap 23, Blakely 15, Simon 11, Urbiztondo 8, De Ocampo 8, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Pingris 2, Villanueva 0
Quarterscores: 35-22, 50-48, 68-64, 83-76