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PBA: Lee beats Romeo

Terrence Romeo and Paul Lee

Game Today (The Arena, San Juan)
5 p.m. – Alaska vs NLEX

It didn’t replicate the gripping drama of Mark Caguioa vs Terrence Romeo from two years ago. But Paul Lee vs Terrence Romeo last night had its share of magical moments just the same.

Lee, Rain or Shine’s playmaking leader, and Romeo, Globalport’s scoring wonder, went at each other from start to finish, trading a variety of shots, especially from afar, while keeping up a running commentary of their exploits before the Elasto Painters settled for a 104-98 victory in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

When it was over, Lee, from University of the East, had 25 points, with 5 three-point shots, going 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Romeo, out of Far Eastern University, on the other hand, finished with 29 points, with 6 triples, hitting 7 of 9 charities.

The two jawed at each from the onset, exchanging body contacts and flops, with neither point guard willing to give an inch nor back down. Several times, push, it seemed, would come to shove but the situation never escalated.

In the end, the two former collegiate superstars hugged, exchanged smiles and congratulatory words, and gave each other taps on the back after treating fans to a blistering display of one-on-one mastery.

Even Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao admitted he had a good time watching the two players engage in competitive one-upmanship.

“It’s a rivalry that is going to be very interesting in this league,” said Guiao. “None of those guys is gonna back down. It’s a treat to the fans as long as it doesn’t get nasty.”

The only thing that got nasty was the way Lee and Romeo attacked the basket and shredded the net.

Lee, of course, got some help late in the game.

After Romeo hit a 3-pointer to cut a once 18-point ROS lead to 91-88 with 1:35 to go, Jonathan Uyloan beat the shot clock with an off-balanced 3 against Denok Miranda, restoring a 6-point E-Painters advantage.

ROS import Rick Jackson, who added 16 points with 18 rebounds, made it an 8-point margin from the foul line but Romeo came back with another trey to push Globalport (1-2) within 96-91.

Lee hit two free throws next, 98-91, then watched as Romeo drilled in another 3 from top of the key, 98-94. Less than half a minute remained when Lee sank two more foul shots to finally put an end to the scoring duel.

Rookie Stanley Pringle, not Romeo, took the last Globalport 3-point shot that mattered and it was way off.

The exchange of firepower was reminiscent of the one put on display by Caguioa, the veteran Barangay Ginebra San Miguel megastar, and the rookie Romeo in the 2013 Philippine Cup.

That night, in front of tens of thousands at the Mall of Asia Arena, Caguiloa had 29 points and Romeo 27 as the Kings subdued the Batang Pier, 109-104, and the two players had the playing court to themselves in an unforgettable fourth quarter gunfight.

Globalport reinforcement CJ Leslie also had 29 points with 17 rebounds, but ROS went on to tie Talk ‘N Text at fourth spot with a 2-1 slate.

Guiao said “Globalport forced us to struggle. They have a lot of good individual players who can break down the defense on their own, especially their import. Romeo also gave us a problem in the matchups.”

Meanwhile, Alaska and NLEX clash in a battle of winless ballclubs at 5 p.m. today at the resumption of the Petron Blaze Saturday Special at The Arena in San Juan.

Ironically, the Beermen and the Aces figured in a riveting seven-game series in the previous Philippine Cup Finals, with SMB prevailing on late-Game 7 3-point shot by Arwind Santos.

One of these two teams will have some climbing to do after this game as the loser falls into a 0-2 start.

Undermanned Alaska, minus injured Sonny Thoss and Jvee Casio, absorbed a 108-88 manhandling from defending champion Purefoods, while San Miguel Beer, missing 23 of 24 three-point shots, got the shock of its life after bowing, 96-91, to expansion team Kia Carnival, without playing-coach Manny Pacquiao and 7-foot-3 import PJ Ramos in the last 4 minutes.

RAIN OR SHINE 104 – Lee 25, Jackson 16, Cruz 10, Chan 9, Belga 9, Tang 8, Uyloan 7, Norwood 7, Arana 6, Almazan 3, Tiu 2, Quinahan 2, Ibanes 0.

GLOBALPORT 98 – Leslie 29, Romeo 29, Pringle 16, Isip 8, Buenafe 4, Ponferrada 4, Miranda 3, Jensen 3, Semerad 1, Taha 1, Caperal 0, Pinto 0, Baclao 0, De Ocampo 0.

Quarters: 27-20, 53-52, 75-58, 104-98

PUREFOODS 98 – Blakely 23, Pingris 14, Barroca 13, Melton 12, Maliksi 12, Yap 9, Devance 7, Mallari 4, Taha 2, Reavis 2, Simon 0, Alvarez 0, Gaco 0, Allado 0, Pennisi 0.

BLACKWATER 86 – Douthit 30, Faundo 14, Heruela 10, Gamalinda 9, Laure 6, Canada 5, Acuna 5, Bulawan 4, Celiz 3, Timberlake 0, Reyes 0, Nuyles 0, Erram 0, Ballesteros 0, Austria 0.

Quarterscores: 23-23, 52-44, 74-63, 98-86