by Waylon Galvez
Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Alaska vs Barako Bull
5:15 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Ginebra
Manila, Philippines – Rain or Shine nearly blew a big first half lead before pulling away in the fourth quarter to down Air21, 104-94, and clinch the second twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs last night in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters saw their 20-point lead (43-23) cut to three points (74-77) late in the third, but avoided a meltdown in the fourth thanks to rookie center Raymond Almazan who scored 12 of his 13 points in that period.
Fellow rookies Alex Nuyles and Jeric Teng also scored 13 points each while Ryan Arana and Larry Rodriguez added 10 points apiece as Rain or Shine finished the elimination round with an 11-3 record.
“We prepared seriously for this game. We knew it would be crucial for us to get twice-to-beat advantage,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “Everybody made a contribution, we knew how dangerous Air21 is, especially playing without a pressure. They’ve taken teams to close games.”
It was the third time in the last five conferences that Rain or Shine earned a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.
“The twice-to-beat is a measure of our consistency as the team. We’re not the most talented, not the tallest, or most expensive team. But we’ve been able to stay consistent by just applying our system, just following a philosophy that is a little unorthodox but it works,” added Guiao.
Rain or Shine stretched its franchise-best winning streak to seven games and will face either Globalport, Barako Bull, Meralco or Alaska in the quarterfinals.
Air21 ended its Philippine Cup campaign in last place at 3-11.
Earlier, June Mar Fajardo had 19 points and 15 rebounds as Petron Blaze geared up for the playoffs with a 96-87 win over Meralco.
Fajardo registered his 10th double-double of the conference to help the Boosters finish the eliminations at 10-4 while settling for the third seed in the quarterfinals after Rain or Shine’s victory in the nightcap.
Petron, which bounced back from a 112-97 loss to sister team San Mig Coffee last Wednesday, will face the No. 6 seed in a best-of-three series.
“It’s a good way to bounce back after a loss (to San Mig Coffee) and going to the quarters, we want to have some momentum. We just gonna be waiting who’s gonna be paired against us. We’ll just be preparing for a grueling week next week,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla.
Meralco ended the elims at 5-9, tying Globalport for 7th to 8th spots. The Bolts face the possibility of playing a do-or-die game versus Alaska (4-9) for the final playoff position tomorrow if the Aces win against Barako Bull (5-8) today at the Big Dome.
A victory by Alaska will create a four-way tie, but because of superior quotients, Barako Bull and Globalport will advance as the 6th and 7th qualifiers, while the Aces and the Bolts dispute the 8th spot. If Alaska wins by 22 or more points, the playoff elimination will be between Meralco and Globalport.
Gary David led Meralco with 18 points while former two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso had 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks in his first meeting against his former team.