A HOT-STARTING Rain or Shine fended off a familiar fightback by Barangay Ginebra to score a 100-90 triumph on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum and clinch an outright semifinal ticket in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Elasto Painters saw their huge 23-point lead cut to single digit after the Kings rode on their trademark never-say-die spirit, but held on thanks to the hot hands of Beau Belga.
The burly center matched his career-high with 21 points, including seven straight in a stretch that doused a Ginebra rally to lead the front-running Painters to their seventh straight win and ninth overall in 11 games.
“The guys really wanted this win,” Painters coach Yeng Guiao said. “This is our best chance making the semis. We didn’t want to go the long way. That’s a risky proposition.”
Ginebra dropped to a 6-5 win-loss card and stayed on course for a showdown with fierce rival Purefoods in the first-round of the knockout-style playoffs.
Belga waxed hot early by connecting on three triples all in the first quarter, where the Painters scattered 36 points and zoomed to a 14-point lead.
Then the veteran big man picked it up in the payoff period, mounting on a one-man run midway through the quarter by scoring on a three-pointer, two free throws, and a short stab to put an end to the Kings’ 23-8 salvo that trimmed the deficit to just eight points, 88-80.
Paul Lee provided sufficient support with 18 points, including two on a layup that gave the Painters their biggest lead at 80-57 in the third.
RAIN OR SHINE 100 – Belga 21, Lee 18, Chan 11, Quinahan 11, Ibanes 9, Uyloan 8, Norwood 8, Cruz Jervy 4, Tiu 3, Arana 3, Cruz Jericho 2, Almazan 2, Tang 0
GINEBRA 90 – Tenorio 14, Slaughter 14, Aguilar 14, Caguioa 10, Mamaril 9, Yeo 9, Reyes 7, Baracael 6, Forrester 5, Brondial 2, Monfort 0, Helterbrand 0
Quarterscores: 36-22, 55-41, 84-71, 100-90