PETRON survived a relentless endgame comeback by defending champion Rain or Shine to escape with a 90-88 win and move on the brink of making the PBA Governors' Cup Finals on Wednesday night at the Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Elasto Painters fought back from an 80-89 deficit inside the final two minutes and had one last chance to send the game into overtime in the final four seconds when Petron import Elijah Millsap split his charities to make it a two-point game for the Boosters.
But Arizona Reid’s driving jump shot over Millsap in Rain or Shine’s final play was long, before Doug Kramer preserved the win for Petron by grabbing the rebound at the buzzer.
The victory gave Petron a commanding 2-0 lead over Rain or Shine in the best-of-five semifinals series. Another win in Game Three on Saturday will have the franchise advancing to the Finals for the first time since the 2011 Governors' Cup.
“It’s another cliffhanger from us but from the start we knew Rain or Shine will give us a good fight,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla afterwards.
Rain or Shine, parading a depleted lineup with injuries to key players Paul Lee (calf), JR Quinahan (Achilles), and Ryan Arana (flu), now needs to win three straight games over Petron to have a shot at defending its title.
“They (E-Painters) pushed us to the limit. But the good thing is June Mar (Fajardo) stepped up today and, of course, our import Elijah Millsap and two more local guys scoring in double figures for us,” Abanilla added.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo exploded for a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds in a dominant performance that saw the top rookie pick outplay Rain or Shine counterpart Beau Belga in the post.
Abanilla said Fajardo’s aggressiveness was key for the Boosters in the series.
“June Mar has been asserting himself down low for the last few games. He’s a big guy, he’s strong, and has a very good basketball sense. He also got some tutoring from Danny (Ildefonso) and some coaches, and that helped him a lot on the offensive and defensive side,” explained the rookie Petron mentor.
Millsap finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Arwind Santos, the leading MVP candidate, chipped in 16, seven boards, and two steals.
Reid led the short-handed Rain or Shine squad with 39 points and 18 rebounds as he had to work double-time for the embattled reigning champions.
Petron (90) - Fajardo 26, Millsap 19, Santos 16, Lassiter 13, Lutz 4, Tubid 4, Lanete 3, Cabagnot 3, Kramer 2.
Rain or Shine (88) - Reid 39, Chan 11, Cruz 8, Belga 8, Ibanes 8, Norwood 6, Matias 3, Tiu 2, Rodriguez 2, Jaime 1, Uyloan 0, Tang 0.
Quarterscores: 24-26; 42-40; 70-64; 90-88.