RAIN or Shine’s rookies provided the spark as it whipped Air21, 104-94, to clinch the No. 2 seeding in thePLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Raymond Almazan, Alex Nuyles, and Jeric Teng all had their moments for the E-Painters, who wrapped up their seventh successive win to end the eliminations with an 11-3 (win-loss) record.
That enabled Rain or Shine to beat out Petron (10-4) - a 96-87 winner over Meralco in the opening game - for one of two twice-to-beat spots in the quarterfinals.
“We prepared seriously for this game and knew it will be crucial for us to get the twice-to-beat advantage,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao after the game.
Guiao was also happy that his rookies stepped up against a veteran-laden Air21 side as it gave him the opportunity to rest his top stars ahead of the knockout rounds.
“I’m very happy with the three rookies,” said the fiery Rain or Shine mentor. “I was able to rest Paul (Lee), Gabe (Norwood) and Jeff (Chan). So far, they did justice to the playing time given them.”
Almazan scored all but one of his 13 points in the fourth period, joining hands with Nuyles, a former Adamson dead shot, in a telling 15-0 run that turned a precarious three-point lead into a 92-74 bubble.
“Everybody made the contribution in this game. We knew how dangerous Air21 is especially playing without pressure because they’ve taken tough teams to very close games and overtime situations,” said Guiao.
“So we didn’t take this game lightly. we prepared hard for this physically and mentally.”
Air21 closed out its campaign with a 3-11 record.
Rain or Shine 104 - Almazan 13, Nuyles 13, Teng 13, Arana 10, Rodriguez 10, Belga 7, Cruz 7, Chan 7, Lee 7, Norwood 7, Tiu 5, Tang 2, Ibanes 2, Quinahan 1.
Air 21 94 - Yeo 19, Canaleta 19, Manuel 17, Taulava 16, Ritualo 13, Custodio 6, Cardona 4, Borboran 0, Jaime 0, Matias 0, Espiritu 0, Sharma 0, Camson 0.
Quarterscores: 28-17, 54-41, 81-74, 104-94