FEW believed they could make it here, yet now they seem capable, more than ever, to go all the way.
Rain or Shine seeks to continue what has turned out to be a Cinderella run in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup as it takes on San Miguel Beer in the semifinals starting on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Game One of the best-of-five series tips off at 5 p.m.
Reaching the Final Four initially appeared far-fetched after the Elasto Painters starting the conference losing three of their first four games in a stretch where they were forced to make an early switch after Wayne Chism went down with a conference-ending injury.
“Sino naman mag-aakala na makakarating kami ng semis ngayon conference?” star guard Paul Lee asked after practice on Saturday. “Ang daming nangyari, na-injury si Wayne tapos palit ng palit ng import.”
Antoine Wright, despite his NBA credentials, underperformed, so the E-Painters replaced him, but with yet another wing-thriving import in Mo Charlo, who looked like he fit the system as he led the team to a 4-1 record.
But in their last game in the eliminations, the E-Painters suddnely brought in a big man in Pierre Henderson-Niles, who anchored them to three straight wins so far.
Despite the constant movement, the E-Painters managed to win all but one of their next seven outings after that 1-3 start to finish the elimination round on a high note.
They have now won five straight games and eight over their last nine, if you include their two quarterfinal wins against Ginebra.
Now, they’re hoping that third time’s the charm against the Beermen, who conquered them in the semifinals the last two conferences.
But E-Painters coach Yeng Guiao refused to make it about revenge.
“We’re really lucky just to be in the semifinals,” the veteran mentor said. “All we want to do is keep trying. Kung dalawa o tatlong beses, hindi umubra, susunod, try ulit namin. We don’t care whether it’s San Miguel or any other team, as long as we’re in the semis.”
“We’ve been very consistent getting to the semis,” he added after his team clinched a berth in the round of four for the ninth straight conference. “That, in itself in something to be proud of. But the more times you try, the better your chances are. Yung lang inaasahan namin—law of averages.”
The situation looks better this time than the last time they faced the Beermen in playoffs. Lee was far from top form then, while Raymond Almazan was out.
“Sayang yun. meron sana kami chance pumasok sa finals last conference, pero lahat kami ngayon healthy,” Alamazan said.
They also have Henderson-Niles, who is tasked to defend the league’s most dominant local big man in June Mar Fajardo.
“Siguro ito na yung pinaka-best chance namin makabawi sa San Miguel at para manalo ng championship,” Lee said.