ROS back in semis

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines —  Its been a long wait of eight conferences that Rain or Shine endured to finally barge back into the PBA semifinals. The Elasto Painterslast Final Four appearance was in the 2019 Commissioners Cup where they lost to San Miguel Beer, 3-1, in a best-of-five series. Now, Rain or Shine is back with a vengeance, barely edging TNT in a KO quarterfinal match at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium last Wednesday to advance against the Beermen in a best-of-seven Philippine Cup semis series starting at the MOA Arena today.

When Rain or Shine made it to the Commissioners Cup semis in 2019, Caloy Garcia was the coach and the only remnants in todays lineup are Gabe Norwood, Mark Borboran and Beau Belga. Coach Yeng Guiao is back in the Painters saddle after leaving in 2016 and returning two years ago. It was Guiao who led Rain or Shine to its two championships in the 2012 Governorsand 2016 Commissioners Cups. His current roster includes three rookies Adrian Nocum, Keith Datu and Sherwin Concepcion with a fourth Luis Villegas in the injured list. Average age is 30.1 with six players over 30Norwood, 39, Borboran, 39, Belga, 37, Nick Demusis, 32, Papot Paredes, 32 and Mac Belo, 31. The youngest in the team is Nocum, 24.

Making it to the semis had to be farthest from Guiao’s mind when the Painters started this conference at 0-4. Staying out of the cellar was the goal, not qualifying for the playoffs. Then came a 5-0 streak and suddenly, Rain or Shine was in the playoff picture. The Painters finished the elims with a 6-5 record, tying Meralco, TNT, NLEX and Magnolia and clinching fifth via the quotient system. That set up Rain or Shine against TNT in the quarters. TNT drew first blood, 116-99 then the Painters won two in a row, 121-113 and 110-109. The clincher over TNT went down to the wire. Rain or Shine blew a 20-point lead and TNT knotted the count, 98-all before the Painters withstood an 11-point barrage by Kelly Williams in the fourth period to win it. RR Pogoy sat out the last two minutes with cramps and TNT missed the services of Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, Poy Erram and Mikey Williams.

Facing San Miguel is Guiao’s next challenge. From the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup cast that beat Rain or Shine in the semis, the San Miguel remnants are Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo, Marcio Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo. The four remain key players in coach Jorge Gallent’s rotation. San Miguel defeated Rain or Shine, 109-97, in the elims. In the other semis pairing, it’s Barangay Ginebra against Meralco, reliving their rivalry punctuated by four Finals battles. The Bolts are on a five-game winning streak and beat Ginebra, 91-73, in the elims. Ginebra has won five of its last six, the only loss a 76-72 decision to NLEX in a game that had no bearing on its final elims standing. Both semis series are best-of-seven affairs so expect a wild ride to the Finals.

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