PAUL Lee delivered the telling blows for Rain or Shine, scoring on a gutsy layup off a phalanx of defenders before draining a pair of free throws down the stretch to lead the Painters to a 97-94 victory over a decimated Alaska Aces side on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to advance to the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
The six-foot Lee, who missed several point-blank shots during the fourth period, rose to the occasion just as the Aces tried to make one last run.
Lee stole the ball from Dondon Hontiveros, who earlier telegraphed a pass by Arizona Reid, intended for Beau Belga. With Lee recovering the ball, Alaska import Henry Walker was forced to foul, sending the former PBA Rookie of the Player into the foul line, which he gamely converted.
After Alaska’s last timeout, Walker went to launch a three-point shot from the top of the key with three seconds to go, which went hard off the iron, while Jireh Ibanes secured the rebound, sealing Rain or Shine’s second Finals appearance this season.
The Elasto Painters begin their finals rematch with Grand Slam-seeking San Mig Super Coffee Mixers on Tuesday. The two teams also met during the Philippine Cup Finals, which the Mixers won in six games.
Lee finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two assists.
“We’re done with Alaska and I’m glad we’re done with them (Aces),” Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said, who in a gesture of sportsmanship embraced Walker at the sidelines seconds after the Painters won the hard-fought sudden death match.
“It was a hard series for us. Alaska just showed a lot of guts. They showed a lot of tenacity,” said the fiery Rain or Shine mentor.
Guiao called the team’s return to the Finals, its fourth in franchise history since bagging the 2012 Governors Cup, as its “destiny.”
“We’re in the Finals probably because it’s our destiny. It’s hard to fight off destiny,” he said.
“Di naman namin kasalanang madulas si Casio. Di rin naman namin kasalanang di maglaro sila Sonny (Thoss),” he added.
Guiao admitted that he thought at some point of the rubber match, the Aces would fold up, considering that they played without Thoss (back spasm), Casio (sprained ankle) and Gabby Espinas (ankle).
making matthers worse was the ejection of Alaska third-string point guard Raphael Reyes, tossed out of the game for incurring a technical foul and a flagrant foul penalty 1 in the first half.
Still, the Aces fought hard, relying on Walker’s 29 points, sophomore forward Vic Manuel’s inside forays as well as Dondon Hontiveros’ three-point sniping.
In the end, Rain or Shine’s healthier roster proved too much, with Reid coming up with 35 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to help the Elasto Painters’ finish the series, 3-2.
“I’m not taking any credit from the boys. Alaska was relentless but we maintained our focus,” said Guiao.