ROS 96 – Phoenix 94
JC Intal took a handoff at the top of the key from Jameel McKay and rose up for a three-pointer. Beau Belga was a bit late in his challenge, and Intal knocked down the shot. It was the Fuel Masters’ fourth trey of the quarter and it gave them a 17-point lead.
Phoenix added water to their instant offense in the third quarter to pull away from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. They were wet from three-point land, with Cyrus Baguio and Intal combining for four splashes in the quarter.
This was the last game before the Holy Week break. It was understandable that the Elasto Painters were probably on vacation mode like the rest of the metro. They could have taken the L against Phoenix and still ended up with a .500 record going into the break. Rain or Shine would have used the few days rest to regroup and get back on track. Not a bad situation to be in.
But the thing is, Jeff Chan is used to better situations.
Before this season, Rain or Shine was a perennial semifinals team. In the past three years, The Elasto Painters have had a lot of success. People might have forgotten, but they’re actually the defending Commissioner’s Cup champions.
There have been a lot of change in just a few months time. New players have come in. New coaches have taken the helm. New names have emerged as leaders of the team.
It was also almost at the same point last conference when the Elasto Painters started their downward spiral. They won their first two games. Then lost two of their next three. They finished the Philippine Cup with four straight losses, ending up as the eighth seed, facing the top-ranked team in the quarterfinals.
Chan has been through all this. He’s been a constant on this team. During their glory days and now in their time of transition, he’s been one of the few constants on an ever-changing team. The Negros Sniper is always in the wings, ready to take the shot.
It was the same fourth quarter of their game against the Fuel Masters where Chan scored 14 of his 24 points to lead Rain or Shine to a stunning come-from-behind win.
The run started innocently as Chan hit two free throws to cut the Phoenix lead down to 11 points. In fact the Fuel Masters continued to lead by double-digits by the next Chan make, a three-point shot to cut the lead back down to 11.
But just like the Fuel Masters, the Elasto Painters also had some instant offense up their sleeve. Chan got the ball on the right wing, faked driving left and then reversed his direction as Taggart was setting a screen. He then hopped into a shot and hit a trey to cut the lead down to single-digits.
Jay Washington backed up Chan with a three-pointer and two free throws on the next offensive possessions to bring the lead down to just four points with less than two minutes remaining. Chan used the same fake drive move to get into the lane for a looping jumper by the charity stripe to cut the lead to just two points.
McKay and Intal would answer Shawn Taggart and James Yap baskets to give the Fuel Masters a two-point lead with just 20 seconds left in the game. For the potential game-winning possession, the Elasto Painters turned to their hot hand.
Chan got the ball in the right corner, way beyond the three-point line as the rest of his team spread out. He took one hesitation dribble and drove past his defender all the way to hoop for the game-tying layup and a foul. He cooly sank the free throw to give Rain or Shine the lead for good.
They say shooters have a short memory. But not Chan. He’s a member of the Rain or Shine championships. He’s not used to losing. Mediocrity isn’t his game. He refused to go into the break taking the loss so he righted the ship and broke his team’s losing streak.