MANILA, Philippines - Just because it's Easter, doesn't mean PBA competition will be giving.
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters survived an exhausting battle that went to overtime on Sunday, April 20, against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 105-101, to clinch the 4th seed in the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"We got the stops that we needed in the endgame," said Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao. "Gabe Freeman was really a match-up problem as I expected. The locals stepped up."
After what has been a seesaw affair throughout the fourth period, new Ginebra import Gabe Freeman scored from a lob pass from Greg Slaughter with 2:15 left to create some cushion favoring Ginebra, 89-92, as both teams dragged each other to deeper waters in regulation.
But neither squad gave up as they exchanged baskets, with Jeff Chan lining up a triple from the left corner within the final two minutes to knot the count at 92, before Slaughter made a bucket on the other end, 94-92.
Beau Belga, however, had other plans as he calmly sank his charities with 45.3 ticks left for a 94-all spread that would not be broken by the end of regulation.
Slaughter had a chance to win it for Ginebra following multiple possessions going their way as the clock winded down but he missed both his free throws.
That led to Gabe Norwood running the break on the other end, only to pass the ball to Jireh Ibañes who couldn't handle the rock resulting to overtime.
In the extra session, Rain or Shine converted their possessions right away with Norwood making up for his errant pass with a dunk that made it 102-97 in favor of his team with 2:43 remaining. That jam off a turnover by Mark Caguioa proved to be the turning point as Ginebra could no longer convert on their chances towards the end.
"It's really what we wanted, just balanced offensive threat. We were able to manage their Twin Towers," Guiao noted. "Japeth didn't really assert himself in this game."
Japeth Aguilar had no points in this game and finished with only 5 rebounds. He joined usual offensive threats Chris Ellis and Mac Baracael who had no points to their name as well.
Meanwhile, new Ginebra import Freeman, who replaced Josh Powell after he got called up by the Houston Rockets in the NBA, played like a man possessed right from tip-off, scoring the first basket of a 17-point first quarter explosion to help Ginebra to a 30-20 lead.
Freeman, who finished with 29 markers, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, one steal and two blocks, immediately provided the energy Ginebra has been missing in their lackluster Commissioner's Cup campaign so far, playing with much intensity and at the same time passing on that energy to his teammates.
Both the Gin Kings and the Elasto Painters were on fire from downtown in the first half with Ginebra getting 6 triples to go and Rain or Shine drilling 5.
Rain or Shine were down by as much as 13 in the first half before they sliced the lead by the third and eventually overtook Ginebra at the 7:56 mark on a Belga trey, 76-75.
Though the veteran Caguioa started taking over from that point, scoring back-to-back baskets and executing some of his vintage moves to keep Ginebra's noses ahead, 72-70, heading into the final frame despite a last second triple by Ibañes.
Paul Lee fought hard to shove his team ahead and keep them there to start the fourth, making a basket from beyond the arc, 73-72, then completing an and-one play, 76-75, and sinking two freebies, 78-77.
He finished with 25 big points and 6 assists. Though it was also a good offensive night for Rain or Shine import Wayne Chism who scored 30 points and grabbed 15 boards.
Belga and Jervy Cruz added 10 points apiece.
"Meralco has been playing well," Guiao said of their opponents on Monday, April 21. "Although we beat them the first time we met them, it wasn't an easy game for us. We're a little tired but I guess it's just the adrenaline that's going to pump us up. We anticipate another physical and hard game against Meralco tomorrow."
Ginebra, on the other hand, will face Talk 'N Text with a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
Rain or Shine, 105: Chism 30, Lee 25, Belga 10, Cruz 10, Arana 8, Norwood 7, Chan 6, Nuyles 3, Teng 3, Ibanes 3, Almazan 0, Tiu 0, Tang 0, Rodriuguez 0.
Ginebra, 101: Freeman 29, Slaughter 22, Caguioa 17, Helterbrand 16, Ababou 8, Tenorio 6, Mamaril 3, Baracael 0, Ellis 0, Aguilar 0, Urbiztondo 0.
Quarters: 20-30; 42-50; 70-72; 94-94; 105-101