by Jonas Terrado
Game Tomorrow (Mall of Asia Arena)
6:30 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Magnolia
(Series tied 3-3)
ANTIPOLO CITY – Rey Nambatac responded to the challenge of teammate Beau Belga and Rain or Shine forced a deciding Game 7 in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals with a 91-81 win over Magnolia at the Ynares Center here last night.
Nambatac finished with 16 points aided by four three-pointers in the fourth quarter that enabled the Elasto Painters to separate from the Hotshots and stave off elimination.
The second-year guard rose to the occasion after Belga called on the team’s youngsters to step up or see their campaign in the season-opening conference end in disappointment.
James Yap also scored 16 points, Belga backed up the talk by posting 15 points, and center Jewel Ponferada provided the needed muscle in the paint for 11 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
Rain or Shine prevented Magnolia from arranging a Philippine Cup finals rematch with four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer, setting the stage for a potential thriller in the rubber match tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We just kept its simple and played our usual game,” said coach Caloy Garcia after Rain or Shine squandered a 2-0 lead when Magnolia responded with three straight wins.
The Game 6 triumph puts Rain or Shine a win shy of reaching the finals for the first time since winning the Commissioner’s Cup crown in 2016.
Ian Sangalang scored 19 points, Paul Lee had 18, and Jio Jalalon came in with 14 but the Hotshots fell short in their first crack at a second straight finals appearance.
Mark Barroca, who had 14 in Game 5, was held to 1-of-6 from the field for three points.
Ed Daquioag put Rain or Shine for good by breaking a 64-all tie then Nambatac drained his first three of the fourth to make it 69-64.
Magnolia’s closest threat came at 72-69 on two Lee free throws but Nambatac knocked down a triple before making back-to-back treys several possessions later for an 83-71 lead, less than four minutes to go in the fourth.
RAIN OR SHINE 91 – Nambatac 16, Yap 16, Belga 15, Ponferada 11, Torres 8, Norwood 8, Rosales 7, Ahanmisi 5, Daquioag 2, Mocon 2, Borboran 1.
MAGNOLIA 81 – Sangalang 19, Lee 18, Jalalon 14, Herndon 9, Brondial 6, Melton 5, Reavis 4, Barroca 3, Ramos 3, Dela Rosa 0, Pascual 0, Abundo 0.
Quarters: 21-17, 41-35, 62-62, 91-81.