RAIN or Shine flashed its potential at almost full strength as it sent Star crashing back to earth with a 92-88 decision in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The return of Gilas Pilipinas representatives Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan more than made up for the absence of suspended Beau Belga as the Elasto Painters built a sizeable lead in the middle quarters before weathering a late stand by the erstwhile unbeaten Hotshots.
J’Nathan Bullock showed the way with 18 points, 11 boards, five assists, two blocks, and one steal, while Norwood and Almazan also registered a double-double each for the E-Painters, who have stretched their win streak to three games – all since Bullock replaced JD Weatherspoon – and four overall in six games.
The E-Painters also handed the Hotshots their first loss in five games after holding their opponents to a double-digit output for the first time this conference after averaging 102 points in their first four wins.
“It was all defense,” ROS coach Caloy Garcia said. “The energy was there, the effort, and everybody who played today came out strong. When we play good defense, our offense comes.”
The E-Painters also broke their jinx against the Hotshots this season as they won for the first time in five games in their head-to-head matchup, including a two-game sweep in their best-of-three quarterfinal matchup in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Jericho Cruz led the ROS locals with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, hitting back-to-back triples that gave the E-Painters an 87-77 lead with two minutes and 40 seconds left, enough cushion to overcame the Hotshots’ last-ditch effort.
Fresh from being one of the catalysts of the national team’s campaign in the Fiba Asia Cup, Norwood registered 15 points, 11 boards, four assists, two steals, and one block without committing a single turnover in almost 37 minutes of play.
Almazan made the most of his 18 minutes and 24 seconds on the court as he chipped in 13 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists as the E-Painters’ balanced effort gave the luxury to have a scoreless outing from James Yap against his former team.
Paul Lee, though, was motivated against the team that drafted him as he pumped in 17 points, seven boards, three assists, and one steal in 33 minutes to provide the most support to import Malcolm Hill who led the Hotshots with 26 points and 20 boards that went for naught.
ROS 92 – Bullock 18, Cruz 18, Norwood 15, Almazan 13, Ahanmisi 10, Matias 5, Borboran 5, Daquioag 5, Tiu 3, Ponferada 0, Yap 0, Maiquez 0, Trollano 0
STAR 88 – Hill 26, Lee 17, Sangalang 11, Maliksi 10, Jalalon 8, Barroca 4, Ramos 4, Simon 3, Melton 3, Reavis 2, Brondial 0, Pingris 0, Dela Rosa 0
Quarterscores: 15-15, 41-30, 68-56, 92-88