By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Rain or Shine Elasto Painters did their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal push a favor with a gutsy 86-82 win over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With their playoff lives still in the balance, the Elasto Painters assured that they are still strongly in the mix for a spot in the next round of the tournament by beating the Hotshots, using a firmer showing in the second half.
The win improved Rain or Shine to 5-5, tied with Magnolia, with a game left in their schedule in the eliminations, still in the quarterfinal hunt.
Magnolia dictated the early goings of the game, racing to a 12-5 lead midway into the opening quarter and continue to hold sway, 22-15, after the first 12 minutes.
The Hotshots sustained their steady form in the second canto with Paul Lee and Rome Dela Rosa leading the way.
They were able to stretch their lead to 10 points, 33-23, with four minutes to go.
But Rain or Shine, towed by Beau Belga and Ed Daquioag, would finish the frame strong, outscoring Magnolia, 12-8, to narrow the gap by the halftime break, 41-35.
The Elasto Painters came out swinging as the third quarter commenced as Mr. Daquioag and new import Carl Montgomery found their touch from beyond the arc.
They opened with a 13-6 run to seize the lead, 48-47, at the 7:54 mark.
Rain or Shine continued to build on it, taking a 61-57 advantage heading into the final two minutes of the quarter.
When the third-quarter smoke cleared, the Elasto Painters were on top, 64-61.
With the outcome of the match anything but settled, the teams scrambled to gain early hold at the start of the payoff period.
Import James Farr went to work to pull Magnolia even, 67-all, after just two minutes.
Rain or Shine rookie Javee Mocon steadied the ship for his team, leading a 13-2 run in the next three minutes to create distance anew, 80-69.
Magnolia rallied back to within two points, 82-78, with 2:07 left on the strength of triples from Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon.
The Elasto Painters continued to lead, 84-80, with a minute to go.
The Hotshots had its chances to narrow the gap after but Rain or Shine’s defense held up.
Two free throws made by Gabe Norwood with nine seconds to go put the game away for Rain or Shine.
Mr. Belga led the Elasto Painters with 22 points.
Mr. Montgomery, who replaced the injured Denzel Bowles, had a 20-point and 12-rebound debut. He also had four assists, two steals and two blocks.
Mr. Daquioag added 14 points of his own for Rain or Shine.
Magnolia, meanwhile, was led by Ian Sangalang with 24 points and Mr. Farr having a double-double of 19 points and 23 rebounds.
“I just challenged the players that it is not easy having a new import. We did not play our game in the first half but I just told the players to step up in the second half and they did, especially in hitting our three-pointers,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia after their win.
Rain or Shine plays its last game on Saturday, July 13, versus the San Miguel Beermen while Magnolia tries to book a quarterfinal spot on July 17 against the TNT KaTropa.