MANILA, Philippines — Yeng Guiao was out of character on a rainy Saturday night, December 19.
The usually very expressive head coach was dead calm looking on from the sidelines as his Rain or Shine Elasto Painters were slowly losing grip of a valuable opportunity, down 104-106 with 1:18 remaining against the NLEX Road Warriors.
He also had a straight face when Jewel Ponferada turned the ball over with 41.1 seconds on the clock, the Painters missing a chance to break the 106-all deadlock.
Guiao likewise betrayed little of any frustration, disappointment, or displeasure he may have felt as Mac Cardona cleanly and swiftly stole the ball away from Jeff Chan at the top of the key, leading to a game-sealing 3-point play by Sean Anthony with 10.3 ticks left.
But Guiao’s composed state is not indicative of caring less. Instead, the multi-titled coach simply chooses to see the silver lining in the 111-106 defeat where Rain or Shine blew a golden opportunity to skip the quarterfinals and go straight to the semis as the top seed in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup.
“It's a big disappointment but we just have to accept it and move forward. We made some mistakes, we paid for our mistakes and overall, if you look at the positive side, we're still number 3 and we have a twice-to-beat advantage,” he admitted after emerging from the locker room more than hour after the game.
“It's also good for us to just go for the long route. There are just some things that don't turn out the way you plan them but overall we had 8 wins and 3 losses, we beat San Miguel and Alaska. If not for the opportunity lost it would have still been a good elimination round for us.”
A win would have catapulted Rain or Shine to the top of the heap. But the loss sent them down to third seed, where they will have to hurdle playoffs first-timer Blackwater on Saturday, December 26. (READ: Blackwater escapes Mahindra to book first-ever playoffs spot)
It will be a longer path for the Painters as they will have to go through two quarterfinals phases, with the second one being a sudden death match, before reaching the final four.
Top seed Alaska and second seed defending champion San Miguel Beer are already waiting for an opponent in their respective best-of-7 semis series in January.
Guiao said an extended break might be disadvantageous for his team, and so he and the Painters view the quarterfinals as more ways to prepare and improve.
“We have to look at the bright side. Maybe it's also good for us not to get too much rest. Maybe two weeks of not playing might be bad for us,” said Guiao, who also said Rain or Shine never took NLEX for granted and noted Anthony’s career game of 37 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists played a huge role.
“We don't know what God's plan is but we will take this positively. We will move forward. We will just prepare for our quarterfinals games.”
Injured Paul Lee (knee) will not see action yet in the quarters, according to Guiao, even if their backs get pushed against the wall. The star guard is set to return in January and will play then should the Painters make the semis.
Until then, it will be a rough grind that, if Rain or Shine is lucky, might just be a blessing to make a potential victory even more worth it.
“This is the consequence of losing this game, you go the hard way,” said Guiao. “But at the same time it's going to sharpen you up, it's going to get you ready for the bigger games.” — Rappler.com