MANILA, Philippines – Injuries to key players cast a shadow on Rain or Shine's playoff chances but its unheralded players stepped up to the plate and the Elasto Painters secured a quarterfinal berth at the expense of no less than the San Miguel Beermen.
Days before heading into the homestretch of its elimination round campaign, injuries sidelined Rain or Shine starters Chris Tiu (strained hamstring) and James Yap (pulled calf).
To make matters worse, Raymond Almazan, who had a hand injury prior to the San Miguel Beer match, was reduced to a mere spectator when he aggravated the injury in a collision with Alex Cabagnot early in the first quarter.
Fortunately, that did not prevent the Elasto Painters from becoming the 5th team to clinch one of the 8 quarterfinal spots thanks largely to Jewel Ponferada, Mike Borboran and Don Trollano.
Ponferada exploded for 17 points to go with 3 rebounds in only 15 minutes of action, Mark Borboran finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds while Don Trollano had an all-around outing of 8 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in Rain or Shine's 95-80 triumph over the Beermen on Wednesday, February 28.
For Beau Belga, who led the Elasto Painters' charge with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists, having others fill up the void left by their injury-stricken teammates was just what the doctored ordered for them.
"'Yun 'yung kailangan namin e. We need somebody to step up sa absence ni Chris and James kasi mga injuries naman hindi namin kontrolado 'yun, nangyayari na lang nang bigla," said Belga.
"Kumbaga mga injuries talaga, traydor, traydor sa buhay ng players 'yun. Hindi namin control 'yun and the good thing, all of us stepped up today."
(It was what we needed. We needed somebody to step up in the absence of Chris and James since we could not control injuries, they just happen in a snap. Injuries betray players. We cannot control them but the good thing is all of us stepped up today.)
Now at 6-4 and with a game left against Barangay Ginebra, Rain or Shine has a chance to avoid sliding to as low as 7th place. Bottom ranked teams will face either of the top two squads, San Miguel and Magnolia Hotshots, both carrying twice-to-beat incentives in the playoffs.
And the E-Painters' most important weapon against the towering Ginebra side? Their 3-point sniping.
Against the Beermen, Rain or Shine buried 17 triples, with 10 surprisingly coming from its big men. Ponferada had 5, Belga had 3 and Borboran had two treys.
"Kailangan 'yung mga bigs makashoot sa labas kasi ang advantage nila is depensa sa loob. I don't think hahabulin kami ni Greg (Slaughter) kapag nasa labas kami so we just need to do our thing," Belga said.
(We need the bigs to make their outside shots because Ginebra's advantage is their inside defense. I don't think Greg Slaughter will close out on us from long range so we just need to do our thing.)
Rain or Shine and Ginebra lock horns for the last elimination round game of the Philippine Cup on Friday, March 2, at the Araneta Coliseum.
"As of now, nabunutan ng isang tinik. Let's see on Friday kung 'yung dalawang tinik na 'yun matatanggal talaga," Belga concluded.
(As of now, we've pulled out had one thorn . Let's see on Friday if it will be two thorns that will be removed.) – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.