3 p.m. – Barako Bull vs San Miguel
5:15 p.m. – Brgy. Ginebra vs Mahindra
As fast as Jericho Cruz could drive coast-to-coast, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters put behind them in a hurry a recent heartbreaking loss.
Cruz unloaded 23 points coming off the bench yesterday to power Rain or Shine past Blackwater, 103-81, and back to a share of leadership in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The former Adamson Falcon went 8 of 10 from the floor, hitting 3 of 4 three-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws in 20:32 minutes. Cruz received strong support from another non-starter, bruising center Jewel Ponferada, who added 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 26:39 minutes.
“I’m just happy to be able to help the team,” said Cruz. “Tulong-tulong lang kami.”
Having less than stellar roles were Beau Belga, who finished with 12 points highlighted by two triples, and JR Quinahan, quietly contributing 11, nine from 3-point area. Rookie Maverick Ahanmisi added eight points with a game-high nine rebounds and six assists. Stars Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan also took backseats to the young turks.
After watching their three-game winning start snapped by GlobalPort in gut-wrenching fashion on Stanley Pringle’s buzzer-beater against three defenders, the Elasto Painters got back on the winning track with a methodical victory to pull alongside defending champion San Miguel Beer and Alaska.
With Paul Lee still nursing his injured knee, Cruz got extended minutes and he didn’t disappoint, scoring seven straight points midway in the first quarter as Rain or Shine wrapped up the opening 12 minutes with a 9-0 run to open a 25-16 lead.
The Elasto Painters built the advantage with their key players on the bench as coach Yeng Guiao opted to give rookies Don Trollano and Josan Nimes valuable minutes and Jeric Teng starting time.
Blackwater, which fell to 1-4, never had anything going from 16-all, with Rain or Shine’s discipline and experience overwhelming the Elite at every aspect of the game.
JP Erram had 10 points in the first half where Blackwater trailed, 47-39, after the Elite went just 2 of 9 from three-point range and 14 of 41 from the field overall. After rookie Art dela Cruz, no other player on coach Leo Isaac’s club came out, however, to give ROS even a token resistance.
The E-Painters ultimately blew the game open in the third quarter.
Guiao, not one to usually heap praise on a player, made an exception.
“Jericho had one hell of a ballgame,” Guiao said of the 9th overall pick from last season. “He’s a sophomore with our team but he has blended well and picked up his game. It’s just matching a player’s personality and ability with the kind of system we have.”
Coming off a long break, Guiao said it took them a while to get their bearing back. But there was no stopping the E-Painters when they finally did as they took an 80-61 lead after three quarters.
“We were really excited to play again after our heartbreaking loss to Globalport and we didn’t want to take this team for granted,” he said of ROS’ unrelenting assault.
The Star Hotshots and the winless Meralco Bolts were still playing at press time in the Petron Saturday Special.
Meanwhile, defending champion San Miguel Beer looks to regain solo leadership today when it takes on Barako Bull at 3 p.m. at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
SMB is currently tied with the Alaska Aces on 4-1 slates, while Barako Bull, at 3-2 and fourth place along with three other teams, is coming off a 93-85 win over the 11th-ranked Mahindra Enforcers last Tuesday.
In the second game at 5:15 p.m., 8th-placed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, which has won back-to-back games after starting the conference at 0-3, meets Mahindra (1-4).
RAIN OR SHINE 103 – Cruz 23, Ponferada 15, Belga 12, Quinahan 11, Ahanmisi 8, Almazan 8, Teng 6, Tiu 6, Matias 5, Nimes 4, Chan 3, Trollano 2, Ibanes 0, Norwood 0.
BLACKWATER 81 – Dela Cruz 15, Erram 14, Cervantes 9, Lastimosa 7, Gamalinda 6, Melano 6, Cortez 5, Ballesteros 4, Golla 4, Reyes 4, Sena 3, Agovida 2, Vosotros 2, Canada 0.
Quarters: 25-16, 47-39, 80-61, 103-81.