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RoS survives Meralco

Games Tomorrow
(Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – TNT vs Globalport
7 p.m. – Star vs Blackwater

The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters hung around the basket long enough for Jeff Chan to turn hot and get them going from afar.

Chan had 10 of his 24 points in the last three minutes last night to lead Rain or Shine past tenacious Meralco, 97-87, and within a win of bypassing the perilous playoffs and advancing outright to the semifinals of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With their eighth in 10 games, the E-Painters need to get past the NLEX Road Warriors (4-6) on Saturday to steer clear of complications that may arise from a possible three-way tie should Alaska beat defending champion and league-leader San Miguel Beer later in the evening.

Victory over NLEX would be rewarding; a third defeat could be disastrous.

“That game will be like a playoff for us,” acknowledged ROS coach Yeng Guiao.

They survived something similar against the Bolts.

Out of contention at the bottom of the standings with a 1-9 win-loss record, Meralco was looking to exit with a bang by bringing down one of the PBA’s most enduring teams.

And they were right there until the 3:43 mark after Jimmy Alapag rattled in a top-of-the-key three-point shot to cut ROS’ lead to 81-80.

But Chan, who had three triples, answered with one from in front of the ROS bench and center Raymond Almazan, towering over everyone else for two key putbacks during the stretch, completed a 3-point play off a Jericho Cruz miss to make it 87-80.

“We had to bleed for this one,” said Guiao. “Meralco’s win-loss record does not show the strength of this team. They tried to finish strong and I was a little worried that if we let our guard down, we’ll be in big trouble.”

The Bolts couldn’t push it hard enough to validate Guiao’s fears.

A 3-pointer by rookie Chris Newsome make it 87-83 all right. But Almazan again rose to the occasion, tipping in another miss by Cruz before Chan hit two foul shots off Jared Dillinger, who bit big time into a head-and-shoulder fake by the sweet-shooting former Far Eastern Tamaraw.

Newsome tried to revive the gasping Bolts with a pair of charities, but Chan delivered the telling blow: a huge triple with 38 seconds left to end all doubts.

“Jeff just made his shots and Raymond was just around the basket when we needed him there,” said Guiao.

Almazan has been the object of Guiao’s scorn for ill-judged decisions made by the former Letran Knight in previous games. But the 6-foot-7 center was redemption personified against the Bolts with 21 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots, drawing a rare mention from his volatile coach.

Meralco led, 49-42, at the half as rookie Baser Amer came off the bench with 10 points, Dillinger added 9 as a non-starter and ROS missed 6 of 9 from beyond the arc.

But the E-Painters went on a 9-0 run during a two-minute span in the third quarter, with Gabe Norwood contributing a 3-point play and Chan sinking two free throws to give ROS the lead, 63-62.

RAIN OR SHINE 97 – Chan 24, Almazan 21, Cruz 13, Belga 9, Norwood 8, Quinahan 5, Ahanmisi 4, Ponferada 4, Teng 3, Ibanes 2, Matias 2, Trollano 2, Tiu 0.

MERALCO 87 – Dillinger 15, Amer 13, Newsome 12, Alapag 10, Nabong 9, Hodge 8, Hugnatan 8, Buenafe 7, Al-Hussaini 5, David 0, Faundo 0.

Quarters: 23-22, 42-49, 67-66, 97-87