Rain or Shine set up an interesting date with Barangay Ginebra in the next round after beating the ousted Alaska squad, 91-85, Sunday at the end of the elimination phase of the 2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum
Even without head coach Yeng Guiao and top rookie Paul Lee, the Elasto Painters just had enough tools to thwart the upset-conscious Aces and end their elimination stage campaign in back-to-back wins for a 9-5 record.
Beau Belga and Ronjay Buenafe each had 14 points for Rain or Shine to lead the team’s balanced scoring.
Larry Rodriguez added 12 points while Jervy Cruz and Ronnie Matias netted 10 apiece for the Elasto Painters, who played without Guiao, who had to attend an important commitment in Pampanga, and Lee, who rested his injured left shin.
They will face the Kings in the best-of-three quarterfinal series on Friday.
“I think against Ginebra, we can match up better because they don’t have dominant big men except for Eric Menk and they have also strong wing players,” said assistant mentor Caloy Garcia, who subbed for Guiao in the game.
“Ginebra is playing great basketball but I think we have a better match-up against them.”
The Elasto Painters have yet to win a playoff series against Ginebra, losing in the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals, 2-1, and in their 2009 Fiesta Conference best-of-seven semifinal duel, 4-2.
Cyrus Baguio led all scorers with 21 points for the Aces, who failed to make it past the elimination for just the third time in the last 32 conferences.
LA Tenorio and Sonny Thoss each had 12 points for coach Joel Banal, who took over the helm of Alaska from Tim Cone prior the start of the season. Banal and the Aces finished No. 9 with a 3-11 mark.
Alaska was still in the game in the early part of the fourth after Jay-R Reyes scored, before Cruz and seldom-used Jonathan Uyloan anchored a decisive 15-7 exchange to put the game out of reach, 87-77, with 3:20 remaining.
Garcia hopes that Lee could suit up on Friday against the Kings, who are always a dangerous opponent with the crowd behind them.
“It’s always fun playing against Ginebra. ‘Yung environment na puno ang coliseum, for sure tataas ang level of intensity ng players,” said Garcia.
RAIN OR SHINE 91 – Belga 14, Buenafe 14, Rodriguez 12, Cruz 10, Matias 10, Chan 8, Uyloan 6, Arana 6, Norwood 4, Quianahan 4, Tang 3, Jaime 0.
ALASKA 85 – Baguio 21, Tenorio 12, Thoss 12, Reyes 11, Eman 9, Custodio 8, Sotto 8, Salamat 2, Baracael 2, Pasculado 0.
Quarters: 19-20, 42-42, 70-66, 91-85