MANILA, Philippines - Just enough poise in a game can definitely win a team a championship.
For the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Saturday, May 31, their endgame poise was the difference maker and was enough to give them at least a 2-3 record as they bested the less experienced Barako Bull Energy, 96-93, in the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad Governors' Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Yeng Guiao's Painters had just enough lessons learned down the stretch, stemming from their championship and playoff experiences over the years, to overcome Barako's 5-point, 87-82, lead nearing the final 6 minutes of the contest and pull out the W.
"Barako Bull has been really tough. Their record does not really show how good this team is. They've been giving teams a hard time," Guiao said of the now 1-4 Barako.
"We just had a little more experience probably in finishing a game as a team. We put that experience to good use in this game."
That little edge was best exemplified after Rain or Shine went on a 7-0 spurt to turn a 90-85 deficit into a 92-90 edge ending on an Arizona Reid pull-up jumper with 1:43 to go.
Pressure was staring Barako in the face as they were trying to create a good opportunity to score and keep themselves afloat.
However, Rain or Shine's guards smelled the hesitation and realized their crucial advantage as they hounded rookie guard Jeric Fortuna, who has risen as Siot Tanquingcen's go-to point guard in this conference so far.
Fortuna, who led Barako's locals with his 14 points and 7 rebounds, couldn't even penetrate and fire a successful entry pass to begin the play as he was double teamed and eventually lost the ball while Reid recovered it.
The ensuing fastbreak was averted but it put Jeff Chan (15 points) on the line for freebies which he calmly sank to give the Painters a two-possession advantage, 94-90, with 1:11 to play.
And while Mick Pennisi (9 points) soon drilled a three-pointer that breathed some life into the Energy, 94-93, a rushed and badly missed follow-up basket by JC Intal inside the final 30 seconds led to Rain or Shine pushing the ball up the court for an easy Chan lay-up, 96-93, to notch the final tally.
"Yun lang siguro yung diperensiya sa game na 'to, our experience in the endgame," Guiao emphasized.
(That was the difference in this game, our experience in the endgame.)
Reid led all Painters with 34 points and 13 rebounds while Paul Lee added 12 points.
Turnover points and fastbreak points became the bread and butter of the Painters in this game, milking 21 points off of Barako's 17 miscues - all while taking extra good care of the ball with just 6 turnovers all game long.
And of their 14 fastbreak attempts, they managed 22 points against only 4 points by Barako.
Even after the win, this game for Guiao is just one small step in climbing out of their rut. To him, lofty ambitions aren't even a luxury they can aspire for right now.
"We really cannot be ambitious at this point. We're just 2-3. We're just trying to get out of the last two spots (in the standings)," he said, admitting that his team has yet to come full circle.
"Sa ngayon nag-struggle pa rin kami," he said. (Right now, we're still struggling.)
"We haven't really gotten our peak performance. It's a grind-out situation for us every game."
Barako, on the other hand, is on a tailspin after losing their fourth straight game.
Their rebounding dominance over Rain or Shine, 60-37, and the 20 second-chance points that came with it weren't enough to break their losing streak.
The silver lining for Barako is the splendid performance of their import Eric Wise with his 41 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists and two steals. But without much local support, those numbers were for naught.
More than the numbers, however, gathering more experience into their arsenal - albeit little by little - may just be what Barako is missing.
Rain or Shine (96) - Reid 34, Chan 15, Lee 12, Uyloan 8, Belga 8, Norwood 7, Almazan 4, Arana 3, Cruz 2, Rodriguez 2, Tiu 1, Tang 0, Nuyles 0, Teng 0.
Barako Bull (93) - Wise 41, Fortuna 14, Jensen 10, Pennisi 9, Intal 5, Wilson 4, Miller 3, Marcelo 3, Lastimosa 2, Labagala 2, Thiele 0, Buenafe 0.
Quarter scores: 26-27, 49-46, 76-72, 96-93.