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PBA: Cruz steps up big for Rain or Shine

Games Wednesday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Meralco vs Mahindra
7 p.m. – Star vs Alaska

Rain or Shine's Don Trollano goes up against Phoenix's John Wilson (Manila Bulletin Photos/ Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Rain or Shine’s Don Trollano goes up against Phoenix’s John Wilson (Manila Bulletin Photos/ Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Rain or Shine used a big run to open the third quarter, then denied Phoenix another chance at orchestrating a comeback for the second straight game to score a 97-82 victory yesterday and maintain its grip on solo second in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Elasto Painters scored 13 straight points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third, turning a 53-45 halftime lead into a commanding 66-45 advantage on a split by rookie Mike Tolomia from the foul line with 6:35 remaining.

Then Jericho Cruz waxed hot after Phoenix closed the gap to nine, 81-72, on a Matthew Wright basket with over six minutes left, scoring three straight triples during a 9-2 binge to put Rain or Shine in comfortable position at 90-74, 4:22 left in the ballgame.

Cruz finished with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting as Rain or Shine improved to 5-2, boosting its chance of securing a top two spots which would guarantee the Elasto Painters a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

Rain or Shine won despite missing the services of versatile forward Gabe Norwood because of sore eyes and Raymond Almazan due to an injured calf.

“Credit goes to the players because Gabe couldn’t play at the last minute so the others stepped up. But basically I told the players that we don’t rely on only one player, we have to learn to play as a team,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia.

Jeff Chan had 12 points, James Yap scored 10 while Jay Washington fell a point short of a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds for the Elasto Painters. Don Trollano and Ronnie Matias added nine points apiece in filling the void for Norwood’s absence.

Rain or Shine also won in its first game since the passing of Margaret Yu, the mother of Rain or Shine co-owner Raymond Yu.

The woman known as Mommy Yu since the franchise’s heydays in the now-defunct PBL, passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 71.

“We lost somebody who really loved the team and loved the players a lot so yun I think this conference, we should give it to her,” Garcia said.w

Wright was the lone bright spot for Phoenix with 26 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals. His efforts, though, went for naught as the Fuel Masters fell to 4-4.

Scores:
RAIN OR SHINE 97 – Cruz 21, Chan 12, Yap 10, Tolomia 9, Trollano 9, Washington 9, Ahanmisi 8, Maitas 8, Tiu 6, Ponferada 3, Belga 2, Maiquez 0.

PHOENIX 82 – Wright 26, Intal 10, Wilson J. 10, Alolino 8, Baguio 8, Borboran 7, Torres 5, Enciso 3, Hayes 3, Caperal 2, Lanete 0, Wilson W. 0.

Quarters: 30-20; 53-45; 78-61; 97-82.

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