Rain or Shine's title defense still alive with win over GlobalPort

Thanks to a big fourth-quarter showing from its locals, defending champion Rain or Shine dodged a bullet from upset-conscious GlobalPort Thursday night.

Gabe Norwood hit a dagger of a triple with 17.8 seconds left as the fourth-seed Elasto Painters completed a come-from-behind 108-106 win over the pumped-up Batang Pier and advanced to the PBA Governors' Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Import Arizona Reid pumped in all but three of his team-high 25 points in the first three periods before locals Ryan Arana, Jervy Cruz and Norwood stepped up to the plate one after another that enabled Rain or Shine to hold off GlobalPort.

The 6-foot-1 Arana and Cruz, an undersized 6-foot-4 power forward, combined for 28 points, 20 of them coming in the payoff canto, and had their exploits preserved by the versatile Norwood, who made four big points inside the final minute.

With the win, Rain or Shine takes on the winner of the other quarterfinals pairing between top seed Petron Blaze and eight-ranked Barangay Ginebra, with the Boosters holding a twice-to-beat edge.

Four players, led by import Markeith Cummings’ 29, tallied at least 18 markers for the Batang Pier, who raced to a quick 34-23 lead but lost steam in the face of the Elasto Painters’ rejuvenated defensive stance.

The ejection of coach Junel Baculi at the 2:08 mark of the third canto due to two technical fouls also did not help the cause of GlobalPort, which was making its breakthrough playoff appearance for the first time since Mikee Romero bought the franchise from the Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc last year.
 
The Main Man: For the second time this season, Ryan Arana emerged as the greatest scourge of GlobalPort.

Saving his best for last, the 6-foot-1 southpaw guard clustered 12 big points in the fourth canto, including a pair of completed and-one plays, while guarding the likes of Batang Pier import Markeith Cummings and gunner Gary David.

Arana also came out as the Best Player with 21 points on a near-flawless 7-of-8 shooting in their previous meeting last Aug. 17 when Rain or Shine soared to a masterful 94-74 victory.
 
Honorable Mention: Making sure Arana’s exploits wouldn't go to waste, Gabe Norwood racked up four clutch points in the last 60 seconds, including a booming triple that totally turned the tide in the Painters’ favor at 107-103 with 17.8 seconds left.

Before Norwood’s clutch play, Jervy Cruz was the one combining with Arana, with the former UST standout scoring six points all from the charity stripe in the fourth.
 
Game Turning Point: Holding a precarious 104-103 lead, the E-Painters showed patience in setting up the game’s biggest play. Reid drove hard to the lane and drew the Batang Pier’s defense, forcing him to make a kickout pass to a wide-open Norwood, who uncorked a dagger of a triple over the outstretched arms of defender Jay Washington for a comfortable four-point cushion going to the final 17.8 seconds.
 
He Said It:
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao: “The memory of the last conference was still fresh in our minds and it’s a little bit of a pressure for us. GlobalPort is playing well and they had a chance to win the game. It’s really bothering us. We survived a bad free throw shooting night. We missed 16 freebies. But the important thing was we made some big shots. Ryan made a big shot and Gabe made the biggest shot. We won against a ballclub that’s getting better every game. Coach Junel getting thrown out, it’s like déjà vu. Parang nakikita ko sarili ko nung na-thrownout siya. That’s really a big break for us. Now, we just have to focus on the Monday game whoever wins between Petron and Ginebra. Gusto ko lang tumagal series nila kahit sino manalo. Kahit three to four overtimes kada game. Hindi ko na nabalik si Paul (Lee) sa game. Nagkaproblema sa calf muscles. Jervy is smaller but he's quicker so I took a gamble on that.”
 
The scores:
Rain or Shine (108) – Reid 25, Arana 16, Lee 14, Cruz 12, Tiu 10, Norwood 9, Belga 7, Quinahan 7, Chan 6, Rodriguez 2, Uyloan 0, Matias 0, Tang 0, Ibanes 0.

GlobalPort (106) – Cummings 29, Mercado 22, Washington 18, David 18, Nabong 5, Taha 4, Lingganay 4, Salvador 4, Miller 2, Belencion 0, Alonzo 0.
Quarterscores: 23-34; 49-53; 77-78; 108-106.     

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