Rain or Shine preserved its pristine record in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup after dismantling Meralco, 85-72, Saturday (July 24) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The Elasto Painters leaned on the all-around brilliance of Javee Mocon and Beau Belga to brush aside a lethargic start and crank up their engine en route to a 3-0 record to take a hold of the top spot in the conference.
Mocon delivered 18 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Belga provided a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards for a Rain or Shine side that strung offensive contributions from all but three of its players.
“I’m really grateful that our best players set the standard from day one,” Rain or Shine head coach Chris Gavina said.
He then continued, "I’ve said it before, when your best players are your hardest workers, your culture gets set organically."
The Elasto Painters came out of the opening whistle cold as they allowed the Bolts to take a 16-6 lead early on. Jolted to their senses, they surged back and seized control the rest of the way, even leading by as much as 21 in the fourth period.
Rey Nambatac and Norbert Torres were also instrumental in the victory with 11 points apiece for Rain or Shine.
On the other hand, Meralco, which absorbed its first defeat for a 2-1 card, shot itself on the foot with a dismal 21 turnovers.
Chris Newsome topped the Bolts with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Raymond Almazan managed to score 10 in the loss.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters barged into the win column of the All-Filipino Conference with a 103-96 decision over the Alaska Aces.
Vic Manuel stepped up on the offensive end while facing his former team as the Fuel Masters overcame the absence of Matthew Wright and sent the Aces crashing down a two-game losing skid.
Manuel, a 34-year-old veteran, muscled his way to a game-high 26 points for the win-hungry Phoenix, who was coming off a two-game drought. His offensive output also helped his side barely feel the absence of Wright, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Also stepping up in lieu of the deadeye marksman were RJ Jazul and Aljun Melecio. Jazul waxed hot from deep with four triples en route to 19 points, while Melecio, the rookie out of La Salle, chimed in 13 points.
Jason Perkins and Jake Pascual complimented Manuel down low as they scored 12 and 10, respectively.
"The guys stepped up. Wala nga si (Not present was) Matt, so what’s important is 'yung tulong ng iba (the contributions from the rest). That was a total team effort,” Phoenix head coach Topex Robinson said.
Alaska slid to a 1-2 record.
Gab Banal led the losing side with 17 points, while Abu Tratter and Rob Herndon managed 14 and 13 points that went for naught.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.