UNDERMANNED Rain or Shine completed an improbable comeback from 26 points down and turned back Meralco in overtime, 102-98, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
The win was the second straight for the Elasto Painters against the Bolts, whom they easily demolished, 106-81, in their first meeting last Nov. 4.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said the ejection of big man JR Quinahan in the third quarter motivated the team to stage what was easily the biggest comeback story of the young season.
“We got frustrated from the beginning, especially on our offense. But I think what fired us up was the JR incident. We drew a lot of energy and motivation from that incident. We just felt the best way to get back at them was to hustle and work as hard as we can and see what happens. We have to give credit to the effort of the guys, we didn’t give up,” said Guiao, whose team improved to 8-3 overall.
The Bolts dropped their second straight game and fell to 5-5 in a tie with Barangay Ginebra.
Big man Beau Belga, the other half of Rain or Shine's bruising frontline, joined forces with Gabe Norwood on offense as the two hit big baskets when it mattered most.
MacMac Cardona completed the Bolts' downfall when he turned the ball over in the waning seconds of the extra period, allowing Rain or Shine to complete the big come-from-behind win.
Quinahan was ejected at the 8:06 mark of the third period for hacking Sol Mercado on the face as the Meralco guard was going for a layup.
Mercado was slapped with a technical for taunting the 6-foot-5 Quinahan, who was caught planting an elbow on the Fil-Am guard that triggered a near bench-clearing incident.
At the height of the confusion, Meralco rookie Fil-Am Kelly Nabong came into the picture and pushed Quinahan.
Shortly after the burly Rain or Shine power forward was thrown out, the Elasto Painters got their acts together and began the hard climb to the top after trailing earlier, 31-57.
Jeff Chan exploded for 14 of his team-high 25 points in the third period, while Gabe Norwood provided the energy booster, scoring on a vicious two-handed, alley-oop slam as Rain or Shine ended the quarter with a 22-3 blast to close the gap at 60-65.
The Elasto Painters managed to grab the lead in the fourth period on a steal and an easy layup by Norwood to make it 68-67, and extended it to as big as 88-79, with time down to the final two minutes and nineteen seconds.
But Mercado suddenly came alive for Meralco and knocked down three straight triples, including the game-tying basket that sent it into overtime, 88-all.
Sabi ko sa sarili ko, di na puwedeng gumawa ng kalokohan, kasi baka ma-thrown out din ako. Mas malaking problema. Natataon lang na nakikita kong libre ako. Sa practice din naman ganun ginagawa ko,” said Belga, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, including five in the extra period.
Norwood supported Chan with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks shots as he played extended minutes to cover the absence of injured defense specialist Jireh Ibanes (fractured right hand).
Mercado led the Bolts with 28 points, 25 of which came in the second half to go with his five rebounds and seven assists.
Rain or Shine (102) -- Chan 25, Norwood 15, Belga 15, Tang 12, Arana 11, Cruz 10, Quinahan 6, Matias 5, Rodriguez 3, Jaime 0.
Meralco (98) -- Mercado 28, Cardona 12, Hodge 9, Ross 9, Buenafe 9, Borboran 9, Hugnatan 8, Nabong 6, Salvacion 4, Reyes 2, Artadi 2.
Quarterscores: 8-21, 26-40, 60-65, 88-88 (reg), 102-98.