RAIN or Shine held steadier in the endgame to overcome TNT 80-74 yesterday and complete the quarterfinals cast in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
Javee Mocon and James Yap paced the Elasto Painters with 16 points each, but it was the team’s defensive might in the final minute of the otherwise tight ballgame that ultimately turned the tide in their favor.
With a 6-4 record, Rain or Shine joined the top eight teams advancing to the next round and could even possibly get a spot within the top four should it prevail anew over Phoenix Super LPG at eliminations’ end today.
The victory eliminated NLEX (4-6) from the race since the Road Warriors could not get to six wins even if they prevail over Terrafirma today.
“I just told the players that we have two chances to try to make it to the next round.
Actually, three pa nga in case we lose (our last) two games,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila we have to grab the opportunity now. We know that TNT right now is secure within the top four. Baka mamaya relaxed iyan sa simula. Sabi ko we have to be hungrier than TNT,” added Garcia.
The loss dropped TNT to a 7-4 record and into a tie with Alaska at fourth-running spot.
The possibility of a seven-way tie at 7-4 and second place remains although the Tropang Giga will most likely take one of the twice-to-beat incentives in the event of such a logjam due to a superior quotient.
Troy Rosario had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead TNT, which played minus star Jayson Castro and veteran Ryan Reyes, who are both nursing injuries.
Making the win more special for Yap were his four triples that put him alongside Ronnie Magsanoc for third in the league’s all-time list with 1,171 totals each.
Gabe Norwood also reached a milestone with a rebound early in the third period making him only the 55th player, and only the eighth among active ones, in PBA history to haul down 3,000 caroms.
Alaska, meanwhile, has adopted a wait-and-see attitude while it tries to find out where it stands in the quarterfinals.
By virtue of a 122-119 overtime decision over NLEX last Monday, the Aces finished the eliminations with a 7-4 record that put them right in the middle of the 12-team pack.
Where Alaska really winds up, whether among the top four rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage or in the bottom half of the last eight with a win-twice handicap, would only be known after today’s games.
“We know that we have a slim chance at the top four. We’re still hoping it works out our way. If it doesn’t, we just have to prepare ourselves for both scenarios,” said Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso.
Ginebra is the only team which has a clear knowledge of where it is, having locked up the top seeding after a 102-80 win over Terrafirma last Monday.
The fate of which team would come next in the standings, particularly those aspiring for the three remaining top four slots, remains cloudy.
According to league chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, there are still 64 scenarios left going to yesterday’s doubleheader pitting Rain or Shine against TNT and San Miguel Beer versus NorthPort.
For sure, Blackwater, NorthPort and Terrafirma are out. NLEX would follow suit should the Elasto Painters win over TNT or the Road Warriors lose to the Dyip at eliminations’ end today.
Also up today are matches pitting Meralco against NorthPort, Magnolia versus Blackwater and Phoenix Super LPG against Rain or Shine.
The Bolts, Fuel Masters, Hotshots, Beermen, Aces and TNT, should the Tropang Giga bow to Rain or Shine, could all wind up at 7-4 with Rain or Shine most probably landing eighth.
“So that’s how close the standings were, and that’s how tight the race is,” noted Cariaso.
Following Magnolia’s 70-62 win over Rain or Shine last Saturday, coach Chito Victolero said the only thing he and his team can focus on are their games and not the things beyond their control, like the quotient or the results of other matches.