Phoenix ousts Rain or Shine for first quarterfinals appearance
MANILA, Philippines – From championship to bust.
The smell of celebratory beer and the thrill of being champion faded away in the span of one conference – 4 months – for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as they were ousted by the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 105-94, in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup on Wednesday, September 21, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Painters, last conference's champion and a model team of consistency in the last 4 years, missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 conferences after finishing the eliminations with a 5-6 record and falling to the eager Fuel Masters in the playoff for the last quarterfinals berth.
With the Painters struggling and unsure of themselves after a thrilling title run, the Fuel Masters pounced and consequently marched on to their first-ever playoffs appearance since purchasing the Barako Bull franchise in January this year.
"The whole week I was hard on my veterans because I was telling them we're winning games because of our rookies and our import," said coach Ariel Vanguardia.
"I told them (Baguio, Wilson, Urbiztondo) I'm going to give you this game because they're an experienced team and we need to match that. Our youth will only be there to help us."
The veterans responded with 33-year-old guard Josh Urbiztondo leading the way with 5-of-13 triples for 23 points plus 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and not a single turnover.
Import Eugene Phelps carried much of the scoring load with his 40-point explosion, making one big shot after another in the final frame to keep Rain or Shine at bay. Phelps also registered 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and two blocks.
Willy Wilson tallied just 9 points off the bench but he cleaned the glass good with 15 rebounds to go with 4 assists. Another veteran Cyrus Baguio also contributed in many ways with his 8 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and two steals for the Fuel Masters, who pulled away as early as the second quarter with a 40-25 lead.
The lead later ballooned to as much as 85-67 late in the third frame before the Painters rallied to within 87-83 on a Jericho Cruz jumper with over 8 minutes left in the fourth.
But that was all she wrote for the crestfallen Painters, who struggled to find the best import match as they brought in 3 different reinforcements throughout the conference.
Joshua Dollard topscored for Rain or Shine with 20 points and 7 rebounds, but scored only two points in the critical fourth quarter. Cruz tallied 14 points, while Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan had 12 and 10 markers, respectively.
It was the first disappointing performance for Rain or Shine in a long time as the two-time PBA champion squad also ended streak of 9 consecutive semifinals appearances. Since winning the franchise's first title in 2012, Rain or Shine has also made it to the Finals 4 times.
Phoenix will face a very confident top-seeded TNT KaTropa on Saturday, September 24, needing to win twice in order to advance to the semifinals.
Phoenix (105): Phelps 40, Urbiztondo 23, W. Wilson 9, Baguio 8, Enciso 5, Intal 5, Pennisi 5, Lanete 4, Lee 3, Torres 3, Buenafe 0, J. Wilson 0.
Rain or Shine (94): Dollard 20, Cruz 14, Belga 12, Quinahan 10, Tiu 9, Chan 7, Ponferada 7, Ahanmisi 4, Lee 4, Norwood 4, Almazan 2, Trollano 1, Nimes 0.
Quarter scores: 29-16, 54-38, 85-71, 105-94.