The Phoenix Fuel Masters were on a high after coming back from 26 points down in the fourth quarter against the GlobalPort Batang Pier. However, they were quickly pulled back to earth by the efficient Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, who fashioned out a 97-82 victory in the 2017 Oppo PBA Philippine Cup, Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Rain or Shine played without Gabe Norwood who has sore eyes and Raymond Almazan who is nursing a calf injury but, as always, the other guys in the team all stepped up as eight Elasto Painters scored 8 points or more.
Jericho Cruz was also under the weather but he turned out to be the Best Player of the Game as his scoring in the fourth quarter helped stave off repeated comeback attempts from the Fuel Masters.
Phoenix trimmed their deficit down to 9 points, 81-72, halfway through the fourth thanks to the game-long brilliance of Matthew Wright who led all scorers with 26 in the contest. However, Cruz killed all hopes of a Phoenix comeback as he nailed three consecutive triples to extend their lead to 16, 90-74.
This explosion took the wind out of the sails of the Fuel Masters with Beau Belga and Jeff Chan providing the finishing touches for Rain or Shine.
“Di namin na-execute yung pinapagawa ni coach pero in the end, naka adjust na kami and we got the win,” said Cruz about his team’s performance in the first half of play.
“I was just trying to play my game. Medyo may sakit ako kaya di ko akalain na papalaruin ako ni coach ng matagal. Sobrang blessed lang ako na binigyan ako ni coach Caloy (Garcia) na maglaro.”
“I just told the players we have to start the year with a win,” said Garcia who dedicated the win to Margaret Yu, the matriarch of the Rain or Shine family.
“When you lose somebody especially your number 1 fan, you have to find ways to have the family cheer up and getting the win is the most important thing right now. Siguro masaya naman si Mommy right now.”
Jeff Chan and James Yap did not shoot very well from the field as they combined to only make 9 of their 26 attempts but they still managed to score in double digits with 12 and 10, respectively. Belga, Don Trollano, and Mike Tolomia added 9 points apiece while Maverick Ahanmisi and Ronnie Matias added 8 points each.
After Wright, only two other Fuel Masters scored in double digits with JC Intal and John Wilson combining for 20 points.
Phoenix could not sustain their fiery shooting from the fourth quarter of their last game as they only converted on 32% of their field goals with a paltry 5 of 23 from deep. Rain or Shine on the other hand made 16 triples with Cruz hitting 5 on his own.
Rain or Shine claimed the solo second spot with their 5-2 tally as they gear up for a huge game against the league leading San Miguel Beermen in their next game on January 13. Phoenix will attempt to rebound from this loss against the NLEX Road Warriors on January 18.
RAIN OR SHINE 97 – Cruz 21, Chan 12, Yap 10, Tolomia 9, Trollano 9, Washington 9, Matias 8, Ahanmisi 8, Tiu 6, Ponferada 3, Belga 2, Maiquez 0.
PHOENIX 82 – Wright 26, Intal 10, J. Wilson 10, Alolino 8, Baguio 8, Borboran 7, Torres 5, Enciso 3, Hayes 3, Caperal 2, W.Wilson 0, Lanete 0.
Quarters: 30-20, 53-45, 78-61, 97-82