MANILA, Philippines – Beau Belga matched his career-best 20 points in a productive game he highlighted with four key charities in the last 13 seconds as Rain or Shine squeezed past Meralco, 94-89, to gain the early solo lead in the PLDT MyDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday night.
Paul Lee also made crucial plays at the finish, including the go-ahead three-point play off Reynel Hugnatan, as the Elasto Painters made it two in a row in the PBA Season 39 following a triumphant debut versus the Alaska Milk Aces in Davao Sunday.
“We’re happy we’re still able to come through with the win though I think we played bad today,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
“Meralco forced us to play a bad game, but we made crucial baskets in crucial points of the game, and we also made the stops when we needed to,” added Guiao after his team notched a third straight win versus Meralco in this tourney dating back to last year.
Later in the night, Alaska Milk gifted team owner Wilfred Uytengsu on his 52nd birthday an 84-80 win over San Mig Coffee.
The four-point victory meant an additional package the Alaska team is donating to victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
“The company has already donated P40 million. But since it’s Mr. Wilfred Uytengsu’s 52nd birthday, he thought of giving more – P52,000 for every point we won,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo.
Rain or Shine rookies Raymond Almazan, Jeric Teng and Alex Nuyles hardly made their presence felt, obviously still learning the PBA style of play.
“They’re still in the learning process. But I have no doubt they will get there,” said Guiao.
With Lee and Belga delivering big plays at endgame, the Elasto Painters overcame Gary David’s 24-point explosion and Rabeh Al-Hussaini’s 10-point flurry in the payoff period.
David went on an attack mode early, firing away 12 points as Meralco took the opening half at 41-38.
Rain or Shine narrowed down the gap to three points as the E-Painters salvaged a broken play, finding Jireh Ibanes open for a trey with the clock winding down to its final seconds.
Gabe Norwood also made a triple in the closing seconds of the third, and the E-Painters carried a 66-60 lead over into the final quarter.
Norwood, Ryan Arana, Beau Belga and Paul Lee combined for 5-of-7 three-point shooting to highlight Rain or Shine’s decisive surge in the third canto.
The Bolts set the pace most of the first half as they controlled the boards, 29-22, and David spearheaded their attack with 4-of-7 field goals and 3-of-4 charities.
Meralco attacked Rain or Shine’s interior defense as Belga sat out precious minutes in the second quarter after committing a flagrant foul penalty one on a driving Jared Dillinger.
Belga nailed a trey and two twinners earlier as he and Larry Rodriguez tallied seven points apiece in the first two quarters of play.
Meanwhile, titleholder Talk n Text and Petron Blaze both gun for a second straight win as they clash at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Globalport and Air21 mix it up in the other game at 3:30 p.m.
“Our goal is to continue to get off to a good start to avoid playing catch up later in the conference,” said Talk n Text coach Norman Black.
“Both teams will be undermanned so the reserves will have to step up. Ranidel (de Ocampo) is still out and Ryan (Reyes) is day to day,” Black added. “Our game focus will be on trying to slow down Junmar (Fajardo) and Arwind (Santos) inside and (Chris) Lutz and (Marcio) Lassiter on the perimeter.”