AN inspired Rain or Shine side went on a first-half rampage even without coach Yeng Guiao and then turned back a fourth quarter Alaska rally for a 102-95 win that levelled their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at 1-game apiece on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Elasto Painters got unlikely contributions from back-up players Jonathan Uyloan and Jervy Cruz early on to set the tone for Game Two of the best-of-seven series that saw the No. 2 seeded team enjoying as much as a 20-point lead thrice.
But unlike in the series opener when they failed to protect a huge 17-point first-half lead and eventually lost, 87-80, the Elasto Painters held sway this time and never allowed the Aces to steal the win.
Game Three of the series is on Monday.
Rain or Shine took control of the match with no Guiao on the bench in the opening half as the temperamental coach was caught in a massive traffic jam while on his way from Pampanga to the playing arena in Pasay City.
Guiao arrived at halftime just as the Elasto Painters sat on a 55-36 lead. Although he was already at the Rain or Shine bench by the third quarter, Guiao allowed top deputy Caloy Garcia to continue calling the shots for the team.
“Christmas traffic,” said Garcia, who represented Guiao during the customary post-game interview. “Galing siya sa C5, tapos naipit siya sa South Super (highway). But before the game, he already called up and told na male-late siya and then gave some reminders to the players."
Uyloan and Cruz obviously took to heart what Guaio said as they finished the opening half already with 11 points each. Cruz eventually finished with a team-high 19 points, while Uyloan matched his career high with 18 markers.
The Elasto Painters held leads of as much as 63-43 early in the third period, but saw the Aces trim the deficit to 100-95 in the final 17 seconds on a surprise three-pointer by veteran big man Eric Menk.
But Rain or Shine won’t be denied of the win as it forced Alaska to commit a conference-high 25 turnovers, which the Elasto Painters translated into 17 points.
“We were able to settle down this time. May mga parts pa rin dito sa fourth quarter that we’re turning the ball over, which I think, is one thing we have to look at. That’s how we lost Game One,” Garcia said.
Menk had 18 points to pace Alaska, with Vic Manuel and Cyrus Baguio adding 17 and 14, apiece.
Rain or Shine (102) - Cruz 19, Uyloan 18, Norwood 15, Lee 13, Almazan 10, Chan 7, Arana 7, Quinahan 6, Ibanes 5, Belga 2, Tang 0.
Alaska (95) - Menk 18, Manuel 17, Baguio 14, Abueva 12, Banchero 8, Casio 8, Hontiveros 7, Thoss 3, Exciminiano 3, Jazul 3, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0, Dela Roza 0.
Quarterscores: 19-16; 55-36; 83-74; 102-95.