by Waylon Galvez
Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City)
8 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Mig Coffee
Manila, Philippines – Rain or Shine came out with a relentless approach to frustrate Petron Blaze, 103-95, at the start of their PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series last night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Paul Lee scored 18 points while Jervy Cruz added 15 as the Elasto Painters controlled the tempo right from the opening tip to grab their ninth straight win since the elimination round and a one-game lead in their best-of-seven series.
Lee led the charge after intermission as he scored six points to help Rain or Shine turn a 49-40 halftime lead into 67-51 with 6:12 remaining in the third period.
Beau Belga earned passing remarks from coach Yeng Guiao for his defense on Petron center June Mar Fajardo, who was a non-factor despite finishing with a game-high 23 points.
Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos added 20 points apiece for the Boosters, who will try to level the series tomorrow night at the same venue.
Meanwhile, head coach Tim Cone feels his competitive juices flowing as San Mig Super Coffee faces the league’s No. 1 team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the start of their own best-of-seven semifinal series today at the same venue.
This marks only the second time sister squads Barangay Ginebra and San Mig are slugging it out in a semis series with league officials looking for a new record – attendance-wise.
During the time they met in a semis series, they averaged 15,000 paying fans a game.
And that’s one of the reasons why Cone is excited about the series.
“I am stoked, pumped up playing Ginebra,” said Cone, whose team arranged a showdown against the Kings after they dethroned three-time champion Talk ’N Text by winning the do-or-die Game 3, 90-82, of their best-of-three quarterfinal series last Sunday at the Astrodome in Pasay City.
The first and only time that the two teams battled in the semifinals was during the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup, when San Mig – then known as B-Meg Llamados – edged Ginebra 3-1 in a five-game series.
Cone and his team eventually bagged the title that conference, his first with the franchise after joining them at the start of 2011-12 season, winning against TNT in Game 7. In the Governors’ Cup last Season, San Mig won the championship that tied Cone with Baby Dalupan both with 15 titles.
Now, he is on track to winning championship No. 16.
“We’re trying for a back-to-back,” said Cone. “We worked hard for it (to be in the semifinals), our guys worked hard for it. We have a 1-5 start then we finished in the Top 4… it was really an accomplishment. We’ll be ready for Ginebra. It will be an exciting series.”
“We certainly wish we had an extra day or two to prepare, but it is what it is. Still, it’s always exciting going up against Ginebra and playing in front of the huge crowds. Ginebra will be confident after beating Alaska and that will make them that much tougher. No doubt, though, we still feel we can compete for that first game,” added Cone.
This will not be just the second time that the two teams will clash in the semis, but this will also mark the second time that the two will face-off in a seven-game series since Purefoods (San Mig) defeated Ginebra in the Finals of the 1997 All-Filipino Conference.
RAIN OR SHINE 103 – Lee 18, Cruz 15, Belga 11, Arana 10, Nuyles 9, Almazan 7, Rodriguez 7, Norwood 7, Chan 6, Teng 6, Ibanes 5, Tiu 2, Tang 0.
PETRON 95 – Fajardo 23, Lassiter 20, Santos 20, Ross 8, Hubalde 6, Cabagnot 4, Lutz 4, Duncil 2, Tubid 3, Lanete 2, Kramer 2.
Quarters: 28-20, 49-40, 76-63, 103-95