by Waylon Galvez
Rain or Shine shoots for a return trip to the Finals when it clashes with Petron Blaze in Game 5 of the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters, however, will have to do it without their leader and mentor Yeng Guiao.
Ejected in the third quarter of both Games 3 and 4, Guiao will serve a one-game suspension handed down by PBA commissioner Chito Salud for flashing a dirty finger sign at league officials last Monday. Aside from the ban, Guiao was also fined P100,000.
Rain or Shine leads Petron in their best-of-seven semifinal series, 3-1, after the Elasto Painters stunned the Boosters in Game 4, 88-83, despite Guiao’s ejection and guard Paul Lee’s absence in the second half following a right ankle injury in the second quarter.
A win by Rain or Shine in the 8 p.m. encounter will propel the franchise to its third Finals stint and second straight in the Philippine Cup after it was swept last year by Talk ’N Text.
Guiao, who conducted team practice yesterday at the North East Greenhills Gym in San Juan, is optimistic that even without him, the Painters still have a very good chance of closing out Petron with assistant coach Caloy Garcia calling the shots.
“Basically coach Caloy has all the discretion to make decisions during the game,” Guiao said. “Our game plan is in place. We have agreed on offensive and defensive strategies. Wala naman kami masyadong pinalitan sa dati naming ginagawa, may konti adjustments lang.”
The fiery mentor brimmed with faith on his players.
“Whether I’m there or not, I’m confident that our chances are good; it can also be translated to a positive motivation for the team. I’d rather be there (coaching), but I have a coaching staff that is competent. The guys are familiar and well-versed with the game plan and system,” added Guiao.
Garcia isn’t new in being in the spotlight as he is currently the head coach of Letran in the NCAA and Hog’s Breath in the PBA D-League. He was the mentor of the Welcoat Paints Dragon (now Rain or Shine) for nearly two seasons before stepping aside when Guiao came in.
While the Painters will not have Guiao, Rain or Shine will have an intact unit as guard Paul Lee and forward Jervy Cruz are expected to play after both were give the green light by team doctors.
Lee sprained his right ankle midway in the second period of Game 4, while Cruz sustained a fractured nasal bone late in that game from what Rain or Shine claimed was a fist thrown by Petron guard Alex Cabagnot. Lee and Cruz participated in yesterday’s practice session.
The two will join mainstays like Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Beau Belga, Ryan Araña, Chris Tiu, Larry Rodriguez, Jireh Ibañes, and rookies Alex Nuyles and Raymond Almazan.
Petron, on the other, will try to become just the fourth team to come back from 1-3 deficit and win a seven-game series. The fi rst to do the trick was Ginebra during the 1991 First Conference finals versus Shell, followed by Purefoods against Alaska in the semifinals of the 2002 AFC, and TNT which bested Petron also in the semifinals of the 2010 Philippine Cup.
Petron coach Gee Abanilla is still confident despite their situation.
“Morale is still OK. Although we are down, we are not yet out. We are just focusing on things that we can control and are not blaming anyone for our predicament,” said Abanilla, who refused to comment on his former coach’s suspension.
Abanilla used to be in Garcia’s situation when they were together at Red Bull.
“The series could have gone the other way around especially with Games 2 and 4 almost won by us. But that’s the essence of sports. You still have a chance to pick yourself up and fight another day. They may have won the battle so far but the war is not yet over,” said Abanilla.