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E-Painters draw first blood

Game Tomorrow
(Smart Araneta)
5 p.m. – Alaska vs Rain or Shine (Game 2)

The Alaska Aces found out too late: Rob Dozier pouring a career-high 41 points may not be enough to beat Rain or Shine in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals – not with Paul Lee around.

Lee picked himself up after having his right ankle nearly crushed by Pierre Henderson-Niles to bury a huge 3-point shot with 51 seconds left and help the RoS Elasto Painters beat the Aces, 105-97, last night in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game 2 is at 5 p.m. tomorrow also at the Big Dome, with Alaska needing to find ways to involve their locals on offense and lessen the burden on Dozier, whose best output was 32 points when the Aces won their 14th and last title so far three years ago.

“Nice to win Game One,” said RoS coach Yeng Guiao. “We experimented on P [Henderson-Niles] on Dozier in the fourth quarter. They were teammates in college and we were hoping P could do something because nothing seemed to work with Dozier in the first three quarters. We were just waiting for him to miss.”

Dozier was 18 of 22 from the field and his long 3-pointer from top-of-the-key cut RoS’ lead to 99-97 with 23 seconds left. But the E-Painters were not to be denied as two free throws by rookie Maverick Ahanmisi and the limited time left combined to thwart Alaska.

Henderson-Niles landed on Lee’s foot with 1:39 left. But the former University of the East star rose after a few minutes and hit the big 3 that made it 99-94.

“That was a pretty scary moment,” said Guiao. “But Paul is on his way back and he knows this is championship time. I think we handled their press pretty well. We attacked the defense and that left Paul open for that triple.”

“We made a lot of bad mistakes in the end and wasted Rob’s big contribution,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.

RoS took the half but only narrowly, 51-46, after losing a 14-point first quarter lead, with Rob Dozier waging a one-man counterattack when the Aces fell behind, 24-10.

Jericho Cruz had 13 points in the first 12 minutes, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers during a 14-2 run to fire up the E-Painters in the first four minutes, 16-7.

With RoS’ first team on the bench, the E-Painters’ shock troopers surprised the Aces with their defensive aggressiveness as they switched on pick ‘n roll plays and challenged every Alaska shot.

Ironically, it was when the regular starters came in for RoS halfway in the opening period that Alaska mounted its comeback. Dozier, who had 20 in the first half, had 11 of the Aces’ next 14 points in the last 2:45, extending into the first two minutes of the second quarter, and tipped in the game-tying basket, 29-all.

Ros was 2 of 9 from the field while Dozier was wreaking havoc from everywhere.

Coinciding with the Aces’ rally was the minor injury to RoS import Pierre Henderson-Niles, who grabbed at his left hand after a rebound play and received analgesic spray during a timeout before he took a seat.

With no stationary big man, like Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Greg Slaughter and San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, to match bulk with, Henderson-Niles, who faced the Aces for the first time since coming in as a third replacement, appeared lost guarding Alaska’s more mobile frontliners.

Sonny Thoss took himself out of the game, however, with four fouls midway in the second period just after Paul Lee came off the bench and drilled consecutive triples to restore a 41-33 RoS advantage which the E-Painters protected until the break.Scores:

RAIN OR SHINE 105 – Lee 20, Cruz 18, Belga 15, Norwood 11, Ahanmisi 8, Ponferada 7, Henderson-Niles 6, Almazan 4, Quinahan 4, Tiu 4, Chan 3, Ibanes 3, Trollano 2.

ALASKA 97 – Dozier 41, Baguio 14, Baclao 10, Abueva 9, Banchero 9, Jazul 5, Dela Rosa 4, Hontiveros 3, Thoss 2, Exciminiano 0.

Quarters: 29-25; 51-46; 74-77; 105-97

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