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From import Pierre Henderson-Niles, to the local mainstays that absorbed a heartbreaking defeat in the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup last season, there is one coming thing among the Rain or Shine players – all are hungry to win a PBA championship.
Rain or Shine booked the first finals berth in the Oppo Commissioner’s Cup following a dominant 124-99 win in Game 4 to eliminate San Miguel Beer in their best-of-five semifinal series Sunday night.
“I have two reasons to win it,” the burly 6-foot-8 Henderson-Niles told reporters after the game. “First is, I didn’t win in the NCAA finals. Second, I have to win it for my homeboy Wayne Chism.”
“I hope we make it two for one,” added Henderson-Niles, whose record improved to 6-1 since replacing Mo Charlo as the fourth reinforcement of Rain or Shine this mid-season conference.
Henderson-Niles is referring to the 2008 NCAA Finals game that he – as a sophomore – and the Memphis Tigers lost to the Kansas Jayhawks in overtime period (75-68).
As for his link with Chism, the original import of RoS who injured his right hamstring in the second game of the elimination and was with the team that lost to Tropang TNT in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup finals, the two Americans are both from Tennessee.
The former Best Import winner Chism is from Jackson while Henderson-Niles is a native of Memphis.
Except for their three rookies Mav Ahanmisi, Don Trollano and Josan Nimes, all players of Rain or Shine – and the coaching staff led by coach Yeng Guiao – absorbed a painful defeat 121-119 double OT loss to TNT in Game 7 of last year’s Commissioner’s Cup finals.
Aside from that, the team also lost to TNT during the 2013 Philippine Cup, and against the Star Hotshots (formerly San Mig Coffee) during the 2013 Philippine Cup and Governors’ Cup, after winning their first – and so far – only title in the 2012 Governors’ Cup.
“Sawang sawa na din kami sa pagiging runner up e, nakaka-pagod na din,” said veteran center Beau Belga. “Sana nga eto na yung conference para sa amin, para sa mga boss and sa mga fans ng Rain or Shine.”
Ace guard Paul Lee, who scored 18 points in Game 4, said the team is hungry for a title and thinks that with Henderson-Niles, they are well equipped and ready to play in the finals.
“Maganda yung tina-takbo ng team ngayon so sana magtuluy-tuloy. Perfect yung import namin ngayon kasi malaking bagay siya sa depensa and pagkuha ng rebounds so hopefully,” said Lee.
Henderson-Niles has been consistent in the playoffs, where he battled 7-footer center Greg Slaughter of Ginebra in the quarterfinals and 6-10 June Mar Fajardo of SMB in the semifinals, averaging nearly 13 points and 13 rebounds – the anchor of RoS’s interior defense.
The import of Rain or Shine said he’s not thinking too much who they play in the best-of-seven finals series, either Alaska or Meralco – the Aces lead the Bolts in their semifinal Final Four showdown, 2-1, with Game 4 set Monday night.
“When I came in, they said they’re a good team (RoS) and they played in last year’s finals,” he said. “As time went on we played different teams, every game somebody’s stepping up. Now we’re in the finals.”
“I’m ready for whoever we play… they’ve got to be ready for me and they’ve got to be ready for us. I don’t care who we play. I don’t guarantee anything. We’re going to play our hearts out.”
This is the sixth finals appearance for Rain or Shine – a team owned by buddies Raymond Yu and Terry Que – and the team will be aiming for a second title, and first since their successful 2012 Governors’ Cup campaign.
As for Guiao, he will be coaching in the finals for the 15th time as he shoots for a seventh PBA championship after winning two with Swift and three with Red Bull – two teams that are now defunct squads.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in the finals, especially beating a great SMB team,” Guiao said as he juggles his time coaching the team and campaigning for the May 9 elections as he is running for a second term as congressman in the first district of Pampanga.