WENDELL McKines won his battle against Andre Emmet and Rain or Shine won the war opposite Meralco, 96-89, as the Elasto Painters extended their winning streak and clinched a Top Four spot in the playoffs of the PBA Governors Cup Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Left without top defenders Gabe Norwood and the banished Jireh Ibanes, the Elasto Painters went to McKines in trying to contain the highly-effective Emmet, and the Rain or Shine import was rose to the occasion as he led the team back from an early 13-point deficit.
McKiness fired 17 of his 26 points in the second half when Rain or Shine outscored Meralco, 50-33, to turn the highly-physical game around.
Emmet still finished with 33 points, but struggled once McKiness took him on defense in the second half.
“Wendell played great defense on Emmett. It’s a blessing in disguise that Jireh and Gabe weren't available that we were able to play import against import,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
The Elasto Painters’ sixth straight win propelled them to solo third place with a 7-4 record, assuring them of a place in the Top Four and a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Rain or Shine did it in the absence of the 6-foot-5 Norwood, who was in the US to attend the wedding of his brother, and Ibanes, ejected out of the game with 1:13 left in the first half for a flagrant 2 foul he committed against a driving Emmet.
But no problem for the Elasto Painters as McKiness was there to bail them out of trouble after trailing by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and by 56-46 at the half.
“It’s his (McKiness) tenacity, his energy, intensity are what really carried us through. It’s contagious,” said Guiao of his import.
“All we could do is to live up to the kind of energy he puts up every game.
Meralco fell to an even 5-5 slate, but can still clinch a quarterfinals berth outright should it win its final game against expansion team Kia Carnival on Wednesday.
The Bolts were still in the game early in the payoff period, trailing just by a single point, 77-76, following an Emmet basket.
But McKiness and Jeff Chan anchored a 12-2 run as the Elasto Painters took control of the match for good, 89-78.
Rain or Shine (96) - McKines 26, Chan 14, Lee 12, Ibanes 10, Belga 9, Tiu 6, Cruz Jervy 6, Cruz Jericho 5, Almazan 4, Uyloan 2, Arana 2, Quinahan 0.
Meralco (89) - Emmett 33, David 14, Dillinger 12, Hodge 7, Ando 6, Hugnatan 6, Cortez 5, Ildefonso 4, Nabong 2, Anthony 0.
Quarterscores: 21-30:, 46-56; 70-68; 96-89.