Rain or Shine knew it couldn’t stop Air21’s import, so the squad just focused on the opponent’s top locals.
It paid off as the Painters walloped the Express, 106-92, Wednesday night to remain unbeaten in three games in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Air21 import Zachary Graham had his way with 37 points, 20 rebounds, and three dimes in 47 minutes, but top local threats Ren Ren Ritualo and Mark Isip were limited to just nine and two points.
“I’m very happy with how we defended Air21,” Painters coach Yeng Guiao said. “The import is just a fantastic scorer. He was really the one who carried the whole team on his shoulders. But the game plan was really to shut down Ren Ren (Ritualo), (Mark) Isip, who always plays well against us.”
On offense, the Painters were efficient. Four players scored in double figures with import Jamelle Cornley leading the way with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
But it was Jeff Chan who sparked the Painters onslaught in the third period. The lefty swingman scored seven points, including two triples, in the quarter to help ROS erect an 84-68 lead entering the fourth. He finished with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from downtown.
“We’re playing the kind of game we want—balanced scoring, ball movement, we were switching well on defense.”
Gabe Norwood and Ronjay Buenafe were the other twin digit scorers for the Painters, tallying 13 and 11 markers, respectively. Paul Lee had an all-around game with nine points, six assists, and five rebounds.
“I think the only thing we weren’t happy about is we missed a lot of freethrows,” said Guiao, whose wards shot 63 percent (17 of 27) from the charity stripe.
The Express were still in the game when they trailed by one, 23-22 at the end of the first quarter, but the Painters extended the lead to seven, 53-46, at halftime and never looked back.
“Air 21 is a deceivingly strong team. You would think they’re easy to play against, but when we play them, papahirapan ka talaga nila. One thing we had in mind was nobody should relax, mentally, even if we had a good lead. More or less, we achieved what we set out to do.”
Aside from its import, the lone bright spot for Air21 was Paolo Hubalde, who scored 10 points, all in the first half.
Now atop the standings, nothing seems to be going wrong for the Painters.
“This is exactly what we prepared for. So far, everything’s falling into place,” Guiao said.
But they have to be wary in their next game on June 6, when they’ll face crowd favorite Ginebra.