July 23, 2018, 2:03 am
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Rain or Shine ousts Phoenix

RAIN or Shine leaned on its Gilas players in the stretch last night to overcome a tough stand by Phoenix and eke out a 116-111 victory in the PBA Governors Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

J’Nathan Bullock notched a PBA career-high 33 points anchored on 7-for-12 three-point shooting while Jericho Cruz also had a big hand in the endgame as the Elasto Painters tried to keep the Fuel Masters at bay.

The pair national players Raymond Almazan and Gabe Norwood shone the brightest in the last minute by coming up with some crucial plays, enabling Rain or Shine to finally score the win.

Norwood capped a personal conference-high 17 points with a two-handed follow-up jam off Almazan’s miss to make it 115-110, before Almazan sealed his own tournament-best 25 points and 11 rebounds with an offensive board and charity that made it a safe 116-1111 count.

For good measure, Almazan blocked Brandon Brown’s last-gasp drive as the E-Painters scored their fifth victory in eight games that assured them entry in the quarterfinals.

More victories against Ginebra on Saturday, Alaska next Wednesday and Blackwater on Sept. 23 and Rain or Shine could even gain inclusion among the top four teams that will be rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage each in the next round.

Coach Caloy Garcia was simply glad his charges were able to hold off a Phoenix team that refused to give up despite falling behind by 18 early and engaged his squad in a back-and-forth game in the second half.

“Lucky that we won the game,” said Garcia. “I felt that in the third quarter our energy was not there. We started the game well, our import was aggressive. If we want to make it farther in this conference we have to check our mistakes in the third quarter. Going up against tougher teams like Ginebra we can’t really relax a bit.”

The Fuel Masters’ worthiest game in a long while all went for naught as they absorbed their eighth straight loss notwithstanding Matthew Wright scoring 36 points and Brown adding 33 and 20 rebounds.

Even if Phoenix, which now totes a 2-8 slate, wins its last game against San Miguel Beer next Wednesday, it won’t be enough to get into the next round. The squad joined winless Kia as the first teams to be taken out of the quarterfinals race.

Not after Phoenix put up a gallant stand that saw it charge back from an 89-102 deficit in the fourth quarter. RJ Jazul, Brown and Wright were at the forefront of that attack that whittled the deficit to just 99-102.

Cruz, who had a lively interchange with Wright since they had a little scrum in the second period, buried a triple but that was negated right back by the Fil-Canadian’s seventh trey that kept the Fuel Masters within 106-110.

Maverick Ahanmisi’s drive and Bullock’s charity split kept the E-Painters ahead 113-108, but Brown’s own freebies kept the Fuel Masters within three, still 69 ticks left.

The tight ending and Garcia’s concerns were brought about by Wright, who scored 17 of his points in the third period, and Brown, who scattered 10 of his own, to raze Rain or Shine’s 45-61 lead. 

Wright capped his explosion with a triple to give Phoenix an 84-83 lead, but Norwood’s dunk gave Rain or Shine the edge going into the final 12 minutes of play.
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