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Lewis sparkles on both ends as Elasto Painters snap out of 4-game losing run

TACLOBAN CITY – Rain or Shine provided a different ending to an old twist in its second matchup with San Miguel Beer Saturday in the 2009 Phoenix Fuel PBA on Tour at the Tacloban Convention Center here.

Displaying more defensive tenacity in the end, the Elasto Painters emerged an 82-78 winner that ended their string of four straight losses and, more importantly, dealt the league-leading Beermen their first loss in the Fiesta Conference.

“We’ve been losing games because of our immaturity, our failure to close out games because of the pressure we put on ourselves,” related an ecstatic coach Caloy Garcia.

“Tonight we talked about going out there and playing the kind of defense expected of us while just having fun,” he added.

The net result was a 6-5 win-loss card for the Elasto Painters and a big revenge over the same team that beat them via an equally close 102-95 count the first time they met April 12.

Following a dismal start, Rain or Shine seized the upper hand late in the second period and even led by 63-52 in the third quarter, but the game was really decided only in the closing seconds were the combatants displayed their defensive stuff.

Gabe Freeman’s triple put SMB within 78-80 and the Beermen even had the chance to tie after Solomon Mercado committed a five-second ball-hogging violation versus a double trap by Dorian Pena and Jay Washington in the last 17.1 seconds.

Jireh Ibanes tapped the ball out and left SMB with only 6.8 seconds to work out an equalizer, but Freeman himself turned out to be the goat as he turned the ball over against JR Reyes, leading to a pair of charities by Jai Lewis in the last 3.2 seconds that sealed the outcome and his 25-point, seven-rebound performance.

Dondon Hontiveros led SMB with 17 points with Freeman’s 14 and game-high 21 rebounds being added as footnote to the team’s first loss in nine games.

San Miguel won their first meeting after a game that had six deadlocks and seven lead changes.

For a very long while, it looked as if the Beermen would have it much easier this time as Rain or Shine opened up the game shooting 0-for-8 from the field with four turnovers. Ryan Arana’s triple broke the Elasto Painters’ silence just below the period’s midway mark and Norwood followed it up with a nifty drive. But it seemed too little too late.

Hontiveros’ 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc led SMB first into a 16-0 lead, which was an all-time franchise-best start and tied the all-time best previously recorded by four other teams. Danny lldefonso’s short stab later egged a 27-11 count.

Turned out Rain or Shine was simply warming up just as SMB was starting to turn cold.

Except for a wide open Ildefonso layup the Beermen could not buy a single basket for more than six minutes of the second quarter, missing 14 shots to go with four turnovers.

In all, SMB made just two of 21 field tries and had nine miscues in the second that enabled the Elasto Painters to catch up with the Beermen at 34 and even take the lead, 40-35, at the half.

At the forefront of it all was Eddie Laure, whose three-point play made it 14-27 at the end of the opening quarter. He had six more points in the second while outplaying Ildefonso and drawing the ire of Freeman, who committed his third foul off him and had to be benched with still 6:29 to go before the break.

Lewis, held to a solitary free throw in the first canto, also sprung back to life with eight points before Norwood’s jumper and Mercado’s triple off his own steal in the ensuing inbound pushed Rain or Shine ahead at 39-35.

It was also Lewis’ five straight points against Freeman’s charities that gave Rain or Shine its first 10-point lead, 47-37, 8:51 left in the third period.

San Miguel Beer also fell to 0-4 in out-of-town games this season, the only winless team on the Phoenix Fuels road tour. (NCo)

The scores:

Rain or Shine 82 – Lewis 25, Laure 9, Norwood 9, Mercado 8, Arana 7, Ibanes 6, Dulay 6, Isip 5, Reyes 4, Salangsang 3, Wainwright 0, Andaya 0.

SMB 78 – Hontiveros 17, Freeman 14, Ildefonso 11, Washington 8, Racela 8, Villanueva 7, Pennisi 5, Pena 4, Gonzales 3, Pingris 1, Custodio 0, Calaguio 0.

Quarterscores: 14-27; 40-35; 68-64; 82-78.
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