Nambatac saves day
Sophomore Rey Nambatac came to Rain or Shine’s rescue once again to lead the Elasto Painters to the Final Four of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup and put an end to Blackwater’s sterling campaign.
The gunslinger out of collegiate power Letran hit a long jumper with 18 seconds left to break the game’s last tie for a thrilling 85-83 triumph as the Painters wrapped up this quarterfinal matchup 2-1, to advance opposite powerhouse San Miguel Beer starting Saturday.
“He carried us in this game. His maturity is really showing,” said coach Caloy Garcia, whose charges managed to pull through despite missing key cogs James Yap, Ed Daquioag, and Maverick Ahanmisi to injuries.
Both Rain or Shine victories happened because of Nambatac’s heroics. He also hit the game-winning triple in an 83-80 Game 1 win.
Nambatac hit 12 of his 21 points in the fourth period to help Rain or Shine claw back in the rubber match that was controlled by the Elite all night.
“Actually in the first half, there was nothing right that we did,” added Garcia. “But [come] second half, we were able to settle down and lessen our turnovers and my players didn’t give up.”
Rookie Javee Mocon and import Carl Montgomery finished with 15 and 14 points for the Painters.
Freshman Ray Parks Jr. and Mac Belo had 16 each, while import Greg Smith tossed in 15 to go with 18 rebounds.
Smith, though, missed the potential game-tying jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer as the impressive run by the Elite—who finished a franchise-best No. 3 after the elimination—came to a screeching halt.
Belo knotted the contest at 83 with 36 seconds left after a second straight triple.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra, which obviously has a really tough road to trek to repeat as champion, and No. 1 TNT open their side of the semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
The KaTropa will be playing Ginebra for the first time since the Gin Kings acquired Stanley Pringle in a blockbuster trade and will be hard-pressed to repeat an elimination round win against the crowd-darlings.
“Obviously adding Stanley (Pringle) to that team, that presents more issues,” TNT coach Mark Dickel said after formally advancing to the Final Four Wednesday night, but not after being taken the full route by the Alaska Aces in their quarterfinal series.
“I think the key for us is how we adjust to them being a different team from the last time we played them,” added Dickel, whose charges scored a 104-96 win on June 12, a few days before Pringle came aboard in the biggest trade of the year.
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