The long wait is over for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Capitalizing on the absence of B-Meg import Marqus Blakely in the last 8:30, the E-Painters outplayed the Llamados, 83-76, in Game 7 of the Governors Cup finals to claim their first-ever Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) crown.
Jamelle Cornley, who gallantly battled cramps in the last minute of the game, came through with a double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds while Jeff Chan broke out of a shooting slump and chipped in 16 points for the E-Painters, who were ahead 3-1 at one point in the series before the Llamados fought back to win the next two games and force a rubber match.
The championship, the franchise’s first since joining the league in 2007, was the culmination of a brilliant conference-long run by the E-Painters that saw them top the elimination round with an 8-1 record.
James Yap had 23 to lead B-Meg, while Blakely had 15 points and 16 boards but fouled out with 8:30 left and his team trailing 73-67. The Llamados got to within three at 76-73 on a Rafi Reavis putback with 5:25 left, but Cornley scored on a spin move to make it 78-73.
After Yap split his free throws, Beau Belga scored underneath off an assist from Ryan Arana with 2:15 left. A Yap miss followed by two free throws by Jervy Cruz with 1:36 left virtually clinched it for the E-Painters as the Llamados’ three-point shooting, so accurate in Game 6, deserted them down the stretch.
"Big hearts and determination of our young team," said RoS coach Yeng Guiao, who bagged his sixth PBA title. "They've got the depth, the superstars, a future Hall of Famer. I don't know how we beat them."
Indeed, the E-Painters had no bonafide superstar in their line-up, just a bunch of tough, blue-collar players who shared the ball and played rugged, hard-nosed defense. The Llamados, who have one of the deepest rotations in the league, were coming off a championship in the Commissioner's Cup and had seized the momentum heading into Game 7 after taking Games 5 and 6 convincingly.
But Rain or Shine rediscovered its defensive intensity just in time, limiting the Llamados to only 33.8% shooting and a mere 12 points in the fourth period.
"At least I know how to feel like a champion again," Guiao said. "After Game 6 I thought I was going to be a fool. I felt that the only advantage we had was we just probably got into their heads. We had gotten into their heads and we took advantage of that. I just rubbed it in and it gave our guys some confidence that we got into our opponents' heads.
"They had more talent, they had a Hall of Famer coach, they're bigger and longer. Wala kaming nakitang advantage kaya nilaro na lang namin psychologically. We were all focused on rebounding. That was the game plan."
Rain or Shine won despite having one of the youngest rosters in the league, and many of the players had little or no championship experience. But, as Guiao noted jokingly, they more than made up for this by having the oldest coaching staff in the PBA.
The E-Painters also constantly attacked Blakely, who picked up his third foul in the second period and his fifth just as the third period was about to end.
"Inatake na lang namin si Blakely," Guiao said. "We kept him busy."
"We dare to dream," said team owner Raymond Yu. "Now we finally accomplished it, pero ngayon we dare to dream to win more championships."
The Welcoat franchise actually won several titles in the Philippine Basketball League, and Yu said both championship experiences were "special".
The Llamados, meanwhile, missed a chance to win tow titles in a row, while coach Tim Cone remained stuck at 14 crowns, still one behind Baby Dalupan.
"I'm proud of the guys, proud of the year we had," Cone said. "Rain or Shine started the game very well and we got in foul trouble early.
"Yeng's been around for a long time. I congratulate him. He coached a good series and he got his guys ready and pumped up for Game 7."
Rain or Shine jumped to a 35-22 lead after the first period before B-Meg rallied and cut the deficit to just two, 50-48, at the half. The E-Painters built another double-digit spread at 63-53 in the third period, but the Llamados again came back, coming to within one at 68-67 on a three-point play by Yancy De Ocampo with 10:21 left in the game. But Beau Belga, public enemy no.1 in the eyes of B-Meg fans, sank a crucial triple to give the E-Painters breathing room.
Rain or Shine reigns supreme in PBA Governors CupYahoo! PH Sports – Sun, Aug 5, 2012 9:41 PM PHT
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