FIRST CROWN EVER
Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.
Rain or Shine dared to dream about its first-ever title in the Philippine Basketball Association and woke up to the destiny of claiming the Governors’ Cup crown last night in a tumultuous Game 7 finish at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters stood on the brink of a major collapse when they lost a 1-3 lead in the best-of-seven playoffs to a gritty B-Meg squad, overcame doubts that being first-time Finalists they would wilt at the end of a long, tiring series and finished strong in the deciding game to carve out an 83-76 triumph that finally put them in the elite roster of the PBA’s 106th champion.
Chief dream makers for Rain or Shine were Raymund Yu and Terry Que, the team’s unassuming owners who had unfailingly watched their teams’ fortunes and misfortunes through the years since joining the PBA in 2006.
Then there was coach Yeng Guiao who cast his lot on his neophyte Finalists, dismissing any doubt that his team will be severely affected by the injury to top guard Paul Lee in Game 2 before stubbornly declaring that there was nothing to worry about after the Elasto Painters lost a two-game edge going into Game 7, confidently saying that it was just a matter of time before they would eventually emerge triumphant.
“Either magmukha akong tanga or magmukha akong genius,” was the way Guiao wrapped up the series which also gave him his sixth PBA title as a coach.
And apparently, from the start of Game 7 last night, his Elasto Painters were not going to allow anybody to call their coach a fool.
The Elasto Painters led throughout the match, holding their own against the sweet-shooting James and the much-taller Llamados. They were up through the first three quarters, 35-22; 50-48 and 68-64.
In the last quarter, Yancy de Ocampo opened up with a three-point play on an inside job off Jamelle Cornley that put the Llamados menacingly close at 67-68.
But Ryan Buenafe fired a triple and Jamelle Corney an inside basket that stretched the lead to 73-67, with 9:22 on the game clock.
B-Meg coach Tim Cone sued for time and gambled on sending back import Marqus Blakely who had gotten his fifth foul, with five seconds left in the third quarter.
But that gambit backfired as the 23-year-old Blakely only confirmed doubts about his immaturity in the game when he committed his second straight ill-advised foul on a loose ball scuffle with Gabe Norwood that sent him out of the game for good, with still 8:30 remaining in the game.
Norwood would split his free throws off that Blakely foul for a 74-67 lead before Yap fired a jumper from 20 feet that kept the Llamados in the fight at 69-74, with 7:38 left.
Norwood, who finished with 15 points, completed two more free throws off a foul by Yap (76-69) and Cornley had a basket from close range before the Llamados launched what would turn out to be their last stab at a comeback on baskets by Yap and Raffy Reavis, 74-78, going into the last 5:25 of the game.
Then an endgame collapse stared the Elasto Painters in the eye when Cornley suddenly crumbled down on the hardcourt holding on to his right thigh which had already tightened up because of cramps. Time was at 3:56.
But in a spate of a scoring slump perhaps never before seen in a B-Meg wind-up, Yap missed thrice and frontline partner Peter June Simon twice — all in a span of three minutes — that told it all in the Llamados’ bid for what could have been a 10th PBA title.
In that stretch, Beau Belga scored under the basket off an assist by Ryan Arana and Jervy Cruz sank two free throws that put the Elasto Painters beyond recall at 82-74, with only 96 seconds on the gameclock.
Rain or Shine 83 — Cornley 20, Chan 16, Norwood 15, Ibanes 8, Cruz 7, Belga 7, Arana 5, Tang 4, Buenafe 1, Jaime 0, Quinahan 0.
B-Meg 76 — Yap 23, Blakely 15, Simon 11, Urbiztondo 8, De Ocampo 8, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Pingris 2, Villanueva 0.
Quarters: 35-22, 50-48, 68-64, 83-76