by Jonas Terrado
Rain or Shine kept its unbeaten slate playing in overtime games last night after holding off Meralco, 106-99, to secure the top seed and the twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Reggie Johnson’s three to start the five-minute extension was all the cushion the Elasto Painters needed to make up for losing an 18-point third quarter lead and eventually secure their ninth win in 10 games this conference.
Johnson had 21 points and 18 rebounds while Maverick Ahanmisi added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists to keep Rain or Shine unbeaten in four overtime games in the midseason tournament.
“This is the fourth overtime that we played this conference, and the nice thing about it is we won all four,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia. “It just shows the test of character of this team right now, medyo I’m happy about it.”
Gaining the quarterfinal bonus allows Rain or Shine to have an easy pathway toward making the semis for the first time since the departure of long-time mentor Yeng Guiao two years ago. But Garcia remains wary of the unknown despite his team’s stature.
“It’s still a long way for this team,” he said.
The Elasto Painters won despite a tale of two halves that saw them make 11 threes in the first half and lead 64-51. The Bolts, the league’s top-rated defensive team, clawed their way back with Chris Newsome scoring a layup to make it 94-all.
But a series of misses late in regulation, including four straight free throws by Meralco, forced regulation to end in a 96-all deadlock.
Johnson’s three past the first minute of overtime gave the Rain or Shine the lead, 99-96, and never looked back.
Newsome finished with 21 points and import Arinze Onuaku added 20 points and 11 rebounds but Meralco absorbed its second straight loss to end the elims at 7-4.
The Bolts’ chances of gaining the twice-to-beat lies on the remaining matches of the 7-2 Alaska Aces, who play Ginebra at presstime, and 7-3 TNT KaTropa.
RAIN OR SHINE 106 – Johnson 21, Ahanmisi 20, Tiu 13, Daquioag 11, Almazan 9, Norwood 9, Yap 7, Nambatac 5, Belga 5, Ponferada 4, Casino 2, Torres 0, Washington 0.
MERALCO 99 – Newsome 21, Onuaku 20, Amer 19, De Ocampo 10, Canaleta 9, Hodge 7, Caram 4, Dillinger 3, Lanete 3, Tolomia 3, Hugnatan 0.
Quarters: 28-27; 64-51; 84-81; 96-96 (Reg); 106-99 (OT).