SIX years of waiting could end for the Rain or Shine franchise on Wednesday night.
Calm, collected and confident, the Elasto Painters shoot for their first-ever PBA championship as they seek to finish off an embattled B-Meg side in Game Five of the Governors Cup Finals.
Propelled by their grind out 94-89 win in Game Four on Sunday night, the Elasto Painters moved closer to claiming their breakthrough title as they took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series – a huge hole only three teams in the 37-year history of the league had been able to overcome.
That they did it even in the absence of its best local player in Paul Lee – out with a dislocated left shoulder – is proof of the kind of resolve this underdog team and its fiery coach have.
“Basta laro lang kami,” said Yeng Guiao, the Rain or Shine mentor, who is on the cusp of winning his sixth PBA championship.
Lee, the year’s best rookie who had been out of the series since aggravating his injured shoulder in Game Two, is prepared to suit up in the 6:45 p.m. match at the Araneta Coliseum.
But not one to ruin the promising career of a 22-year-old, Guiao emphatically ruled the Rain or Shine combo guard as `out for the rest of the series.’
“That thing of Paul necessary to play for us to win, it’s not really true at this point,” said the Elasto Painters coach, who got ample contributions from his bench in outplaying the Llamados in the first four games of the title match.
Already faced with the tough task of crawling out of an overwhelming Finals deficit, B-Meg will now have to make do without energetic forward Marc Pingris, who is suffering from severe neck pain caused by a Ryan Arana hit in Sunday’s Game.
The absence of Pingris, who was also fined P20,000 after the flagrant 1 foul he committed on Arana was upgraded to flagrant foul 2, will leave a Llamados team already without injured stalwarts Joe Devance and JC intal another man down in the frontline.
But B-Meg coach Tim Cone still believes in the Llamados’ capacity to rise to the challenge.
“Overcoming those things, that’s what winning championships is all about, overcoming the various adversities that you meet throughout the series,” said the American mentor, who steered this same team to the Commissioner’s Cup title a conference ago.
The veteran mentor that he is, Guiao however, will not be lulled into a sense of complacency even with B-Meg going into the game undermanned.
“This is a vulnerable moment for us because we might think it’s over when it’s not,” he said. “When you’re playing B-Meg, anything can change in a second. If they’re able to come back strong and get on a roll, I think they’re going to be hard to stop.”
Ginebra is the only team to have crept back from a 1-3 Finals deficit to win the championship, beating out Formula Shell in an epic Game Seven of the 1991 First Conference title series best remembered for Rudy Distrito's fadeaway, game-winning basket.
Purefoods (2006 Philippine Cup) and Talk `N Text (2011-12 Philippine Cup) were the other two teams which did the trick, but they did so in the semifinals.