By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Rain or Shine Elasto Painters edged out the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in their battle of league-leading teams in the PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, winning, 98-94, in overtime.
Displaying anew their free-flowing attack with contributions coming from different directions, the Elasto Painters (6-1) held tough amid a stiff challenge to notch their fourth straight win in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament and overtaking the erstwhile undefeated Fuel Masters (5-1) at the top of the standings.
The two teams engaged in a slugfest to start the contest, at loggerheads at 17-all by the 5:02 mark of the opening quarter.
Rain or Shine though would have a stronger finish, outscoring Phoenix, 7-3, the rest of the period to go on top, 24-20.
The Elasto Painters sustained their control over the Fuel Masters to start the second frame.
They would hold a 33-26 advantage midway on the lead of big men Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan.
Jason Perkins and Calvin Abueva tried to rally back the Fuel Masters but the Elasto Painters would not budge to take a 45-36 lead at the break.
In the third period, Phoenix went on a ferocious rally, led by gunner Matthew Wright.
It pulled even at 56-all at the 5:45 mark.
Mr. Almazan though would string up six quick points after to start another Rain or Shine pullaway.
When the third-quarter smoke cleared, the Elasto Painters continued to hold sway, 70-61.
Phoenix opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 run to narrow the gap at 70-65 in the opening two minutes.
Rain or Shine managed to keep its opponent at bay in the next six minutes but the Fuel Masters were undeterred, coming to within a point, 79-78, with 3:41 to go.
But much like what it has been doing all game long, the Elasto Painters would finds ways to extricate themselves from the bind, racing to an 83-78 lead with two minutes left on the game clock.
The Fuel Masters cut their deficit to three points a couple of times in the next minute but Gabe Norwood was able to answer for Rain or Shine each time.
The count stood at 87-82 with 57 seconds to go in favor of Rain or Shine.
Mr. Wright pushed Phoenix to within two points, 87-85, with a triple at the 47-second mark.
Mr. Norwood tried to add to their lead but his jumper was blocked by Mr. Abueva.
Phoenix sued for time with 21 seconds to go to set up a play.
It was a successful ploy as Mr. Perkins knotted the score at 87-all with 13 ticks left.
Rain or Shine had a chance to win the game but James Yap’s game-winning triple attempt failed to connect as regulation expired.
The dogfight continued in extra time with the two teams levelled at 92-all with two minutes to go.
Rey Nambatac broke the tie, 94-92, with 1:34 left off a lay-up before Mr. Almazan made it a four-point cushion, 96-92, with a pair of free throws with 53 seconds remaining.
Alex Mallari made it a two-point game, 96-94, with a lay-up with 35 seconds left.
Rain or Shine, however, was not to be denied a win as Mark Borboran, off a broken play, scored the basket with 12 seconds to go that sealed the win for the Elasto Painters.
Mr. Belga and Kris Rosales led Rain or Shine with 16 points apiece with Maverick Ahanmisi, Messrs. Almazan and Nambatac adding, 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Mr. Perkins had a career-high 27 points for Phoenix with Messrs. Abueva and Wright adding 16 points apiece.
“It was another good win for us. But the thing about this was how we wanted it,” said winning coach Caloy Garcia in describing their victory.