RAIN or Shine avoided the upset ax in a game against Meralco, pulling through with a 97-87 victory on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to boost its bid for an outright semifinal berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup.
The Elasto Painters overcame a double-digit deficit, before coming through in the clutch to pull away and frustrate the Bolts, who finished the all-Filipino conference losing all but one of their 11 games.
Jeff Chan was on target with a game-high 24 points, while Raymond Almazan was always in the right place at the right time to register career-highs of 21 points and 17 boards for the Painters, who notched their eighth win in 10 games.
“We had to bleed for this one,” Painters coach Yeng Guiao said. “Meralco is really a strong team. Their win-loss record does not indicate their real strength.”
“We came into this game knowing that if we couldn’t put some distance between us and them in the first half, it’s going to turn out to be exactly what it did: a hard game,” he added.
The final score, indeed, belied how close the game was as Meralco, looking to finish their disappointing campaign on a strong, engaged the Painters in a nip-and-tuck affair that saw 14 lead changes and nine deadlocks.
The Bolts built a 10-point third-quarter lead and were still ahead, 73-71, early in the fourth, before the Painters unleashed a strong finishing kick to turn the game around and suddenly come up with their own double-digit cushion.
Eight Bolts scored at least seven points, but gunner Gary David, in a rare occurrence, was held scoreless in 14 minutes.
Rain or Shine 97 - Chan 24, Almazan 21, Cruz 13, Belga 9, Norwood 8, Quinahan 5, Ahanmisi 4, Ponferada 4, Teng 3, Ibanes 2, Matias 2, Trollano 2, Tiu 0.
Meralco 87 - Dillinger 15, Amer 13, Newsome 12, Alapag 10, Nabong 9, Hodge 8, Hugnatan 8, Buenafe 7, Al-Hussaini 5, David 0, Faundo 0.
Quarterscores: 23-22, 42-49, 67-66, 97-87