By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters are heading into the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals after defeating the TNT Tropang Giga, 80-74, in a key match on Tuesday at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.
Needing a win out of its last two games in the elimination round of the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament to claim the final quarterfinal berth, the Elasto Painters did not waste time and jumped on the opportunity of getting it at the first instance.
Rain or Shine put up a steady fight throughout the contest and hung tough in the end to book the win to improve to 6-4 with one game left in its schedule in the eliminations.
The win also eliminated the NLEX Road Warriors (4-6) from the playoff race.
The loss, meanwhile, dropped TNT to 7-4, missing the chance at claiming a top-four spot and a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters outright.
TNT took early control of the contest, booking a 19-13 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
In the second frame, however, Rain or Shine started humming on the lead of veterans James Yap and Mark Borboran. It would go on and outscore TNT, 30-19, to claim the lead, 43-38, at the break.
Rain or Shine would continue to command control in the third canto.
It stretched its lead to 10 points, 55-45, in the first five minutes of the quarter.
The Tropang Giga tried to inch closer after that but still found themselves down by double digits, 67-57, heading into the final 12 minutes.
Despite being continuously frustrated by Rain or Shine, TNT was undeterred and kept charging in the payoff quarter.
Led by Ray Parks Jr. and Poy Erram, the Tropang Giga steadily chipped away on the lead of the Elasto Painters, levelling the count at 72-all with 2:15 left in the game.
But Rain or Shine outscored TNT, 5-2, in the next minute and a half to go on top, 77-74.
The Tropang Giga had a chance to come near, or even tie the contest, but Troy Rosario blew their chance after he was called for an offensive foul while he drove to the basket with 19 ticks to go.
TNT was forced to foul after, sending Javee Mocon to the charity line.
Mr. Mocon calmly sank his free throws to extend their lead, 79-74.
It was a hole that the Tropang Giga could not get themselves out of, eventually slumping to the defeat.
Messrs. Yap and Mocon top-scored for Rain or Shine with 16 points apiece with Beau Belga and Mr. Borboran adding 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Mr. Rosario, meanwhile, paced TNT with 18 points, followed by Mr. Erram with 14. The two also combined for 23 rebounds.
The Tropang Giga played without Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes, who were rested to help their body recover from some discomfort.
“We told the players we have at least two chances to enter the playoffs but that we had to finish it now because things will not get easier for us. We’re happy with the win and we look forward to the game tomorrow (Wednesday) because we still have a chance to enter the top four,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia after the game.
Rain or Shine plays the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters on Wednesday in its final game in the eliminations.
‘LEE-THAL WEAPON’ IS POW
Meanwhile, Paul Lee of the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok was hailed PBA Player of the Week for the period of Nov. 3-8.
The “Lee-thal Weapon” had it solid in said stretch, leading the Hotshots to a 4-0 record with numbers of 25.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Magnolia’s winning streak propelled it to the thick for the fight for a quarterfinal spot after opening the tournament shaky.
Mr. Lee, 31, beat out Phoenix’s RJ Jazul, Barangay Ginebra’s Stanley Pringle, Meralco’s Chris Newsome, and the NLEX’s Kevin Alas and Jericho Cruz for the weekly citation handed out by members of the media covering the league.
Winning the Rookie of the Week award was Aaron Black of Meralco after he averaged 5.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his team’s 3-1 outing last week.
He won the award over Terrafirma’s Roosevelt Adams and Magnolia’s Aris Dionisio.