Rookies, Rain or Shine hold off Air21, clinches no.2 in PBA PH Cup
MANILA, Philippines – Rain or Shine got a boost from its rookies as it held off a late Air21 rally to win, 104-94, and secure the last twice-to-beat advantage in the 2014 PLDT myDSL Philippine Cup Saturday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Third overall pick Raymond Almazan nearly posted a double-double with 13 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, and eight rebounds to go along with two blocks while late first round draftee Alex Nuyles and second-rounder Jeric Teng also had 13 each for the red-hot Elasto Painters.
“We prepared seriously for this game and we knew that it will be crucial for us to get to the twice-to-eat advantage. Everybody made a contribution this game,” said ROS head coach Yeng Guiao after his squad fanned its franchise-best winning streak to seven games and enter the playoffs armed with a twice-to-beat edge over seventh seed GlobalPort.
“We prepared hard for this physically and mentally. It’s also our way to trying to maintain the winning streak and the momentum and get ready for the playoffs,” Guiao added, whose squad lost a 20-point lead before building another double-digit buffer thanks to a pivotal 15-0 blast bridging the third and fourth quarter anchored by lanky center Almazan and athletic swingman Nuyles.
Teng, University of Santo Tomas’ coldblooded gunner, helped the Painters, who finished the eliminations with an impressive 11-3 mark, get off to a fast start.
“I’m very happy with the three rookies. Raymond, Alex and Jeric. It was really an opportunity for them. I knew if we had the good lead I was going to be able to rest Paul, Gabe and Jeff and they would certainly [get more] playing time and they did justice to it,” Guiao praised.
Guiao though, like he always does, stuck through with his rookies despite a blistering Express fightback which chopped down the Painters’ 20-point lead to just two, 71-69, at the 3:42 mark of the third period.
Air21, which finished the conference dead last in the standings with a 3-11 slate, was primed to turn the tide before Nuyles scored eight unanswered points to restore order for ROS, 85-74, with 11:14 left.
Almazan then followed suit – making seven straight points highlighted by a dunk – that extended the Painters’ advantage back to 18, 92-74 with 9:12 to go.
The NCAA MVP Almazan capped off his solid outing with a basket underneath over veteran big man Asi Taulava that put the game away, 100-90, with only 1:39 remaining.
“We knew how dangerous Air21 is, especially playing without the pressure. They’ve taken very tough teams in close games and into overtimes.”
Niño Canaleta had 19 points for the Express before fouling out in the waning seconds. Joseph Yeo also tallied 19.
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