MANILA, Philippines - Developing thick skin and unwavering nerve in high-pressure situations is one of the most crucial qualities a team must have if it wants to win.
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters have excelled in that aspect as of late. They proved it once again when they extended their win streak to 5 with a tight victory over PLDT myDSL Philippine Cup defending champions Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters, 90-88, on Saturday, January 11 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"We just rode on our energy, we just tried to stay aggressive all the way 'til the endgame," Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao said after the game.
Without a doubt it was the Painters' aggressiveness in the paint as well as on the perimeter that made all the difference for them. It was most evident in the battle of the boards, where they edged the Texters, 55-47.
Gabe Norwood led the rebounding tirade for his team with 12 but every Painter fielded in had a rebound to his name. This only showed Rain or Shine's commitment to crashing the boards as a team in an effort to limit Talk 'N Text's possessions.
Guiao explained coming into the game that their plan was to stop TNT's deadly guards. But he also revealed a fatal flaw in their plan - one that nearly cost them the game.
"We did a pretty good job defensively against their guards with Jimmy (Alapag) and Jayson (Castro)," he explained.
"We couldn't really manage or control (Danny) Seigle and Ranidel (De Ocampo). We prepared to contain the guards but I guess we just left out guys like Seigle and Ranidel but I guess it still paid off because we still won the game."
Their mission to limit the two most explosive TNT guards was partly successful as Alapag only had 9 points and hit one three-pointer. Castro, on the other hand, was still able to pour in 17 markers - most of which he gathered from the free throw line (8-of-9).
What Rain or Shine was most successful in was keeping the Texters from employing their running game. Castro wasn't able to run the break as much as Talk'N Text only had 5 fast break attempts for 4 points. At the same time, Rain or Shine ran themselves and had 14 points off the break.
Rain or Shine's rebounding, defense and the outside shooting that began falling for them in the fourth eventually saved them down the stretch.
Following a Beau Belga split from the line, both teams entered the final two minutes knotted at 88-all. But Belga, who had been demanding a foul from the referee on the other end, let out his frustration by draining the go-ahead baseline jumper to make it, 90-88, with 1:10 remaining.
The stingy RoS defense was exemplified best in the ensuing play when De Ocampo drove for a potential game-tying basket but was met with the burly bodies of "Extra Rice Inc.," Belga and JR Quinahan, both of whom blocked De Ocampo.
After that block Quinahan attempted to give his team more cushion with a jumper but couldn't get it to fall. That's when Belga collared the board and saved the possession to cut some more time from the clock.
De Ocampo attempted to redeem himself and force overtime with a jumper just within the arc but it only hit the rim as time expired.
"The good thing about it is we're beating the top teams in endgame situations. It shows mental toughness, it shows the will to win. So I think it's looking pretty good," said Guiao.
Indeed, at 9-3 and tied at second place with Petron, things are looking good for the Elasto Painters.
One other thing that's looking good for them is the rise of rookie Alex Nuyles out of Adamson University, who has been proving his mettle in the past couple of games. This time he finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Guiao chose to let him finish the game to give him some experience.
Guiao could only be proud of how his guys responded in that kind of pressure-packed situation.
"We showed maturity and the desire to win in tight situations."
Meanwhile, Talk 'N Text played sans center Kelly Williams who injured his ankle. They now hold a 7-5 win-loss slate despite De Ocampo's double-double performance with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Rain or Shine (90): Quinahan 19, Belga 16, Nuyles 13, Lee 8, Chan 7, Cruz 6, Tiu 5, Araña 4, Rodriguez 4, Norwood 4, Tang 2, Ibañes 2
Talk 'N Text (88): De Ocampo 24, Seigle 18, Castro 17, Alapag 9, Fonacier 8, Aban 4, Anthony 3, Reyes 3, Baclao 2
24-18, 45-46, 71-70, 90-88 - Rappler.com