RAIN or Shine’s unforgiving defense held Petron Blaze to just one field goal in the final eight minutes to pull off a highly-physical 103-94 comeback win and take a 2-0 lead in their PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Unrelenting with their customary rugged defense for 48 minutes, the E-Painters methodically razed the Boosters' once imposing 13-point fourth quarter lead as they starved Petron's scorers in the final stretch.
With Jeff Chan knocking down back-to-back triples, the E-Painters took the cue from there, launching a massive 24-8 run which led to their 10th successive victory since the eliminations and left the Boosters in a hole in the best-of-seven semifinal playoff.
“We just carved out a hard win today. For a while thought it was a lost game, but the guys didn’t give up,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
“It’s a testament to the guys’ desire to win, determination to win. It’s a testament to their mental toughness, a lot of mental toughness that you need to win against Petron.”
June Mar Fajardo led the Boosters with 20 points, but he had to bleed for every basket in a game that was halted a few times due to a lot of trash talking and hard banging underneath the basket.
The 6-10 Fajardo even drew his first technical foul as a pro when he traded elbows and scathing words with Rain or Shine forward Larry Rodriguez, while jockeying for position at the post.
The highly physical match easily pushed Petron out of its comfort zone, especially Fajardo, who committed a game-high six turnovers in the match as quicker Rain or Shine players like Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan or Ryan Arana left the giant befuddled with a constant double team.
Guiao also paid tribute to rookie slotman Raymond Almazan, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the final period, punctuated by a breakaway slam dunk toward the end of the match.
Still, Guiao said they cannot afford to relax even if they now enjoy a 2-0 cushion, knowing that Petron’s talent-laden roster is capable of launching a comeback in Game Three.
“We cannot celebrate at this point. We still need to win two more (games),” said Guiao.
Chan led the E-Painters with 20 points, powered by five three-point conversions. Paul Lee chipped in 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Alex Cabagnot bounced back from a subpar Game One performance with 17 points, while Marcio Lassiter added 14.
Rain or Shine 103 - Chan 20, Almazan 15, Lee 15, Belga 11, Norwood 11, Arana 8, Tang 5, Quinahan 4, Cruz 4, Nuyles 4, Rodriguez 4, Teng 2, Tiu 0, Ibanes 0.
Petron 94 - Fajardo 20, Cabagnot 17, Lassiter 14, Santos 12, Lutz 7, Kramer 6, Hubalde 6, Ross 6, Tubid 4, Taha 2.
Quarterscores: 18-32, 46-49, 67-78, 103-94