MANILA, Philippines – For the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, their showdown against San Miguel Beer on Sunday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo represented their biggest test of the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup for many reasons.
Not only were they facing the defending champion of the conference, the Elasto Painters were also coming off their first loss – a 104-96 defeat to Columbian Dyip last May 9 that saw them shoot just 37% from the field.
"San Miguel was coming from a loss. I don't even remember the last time when they lost two straight (games)," noted Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia. "And then us, coming from a loss against Columbian – that is a test of character for both teams."
Consider the test passed by the Elasto Painters.
Rain or Shine lost an early 12-point lead, fell behind by as much as 17 points against the Beermen, but rallied to win the game in overtime, 123-119.
They got huge games from import Reggie Johnson (27 points, 19 rebounds) and Raymond Almazan (25 points, eight in overtime), while three other players scored in double-digits.
"Luckily, we were able to pull off this win," said Garcia.
Veteran guard Gabe Norwood, who knocked down two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Rain or Shine complete its comeback, was pleased with how their team responded following the loss to Columbian Dyip.
"First off, kudos to Columbian," said Norwood, who scored only six points on 2-of-7 shooting against Dyip but had 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists when they played San Miguel. "They're playing with a lot of confidence right now."
"It's a character thing, to see how we bounce back against a powerhouse team," he explained. "For us to come out and really compete at a high level, it's inspiring."
Norwood was a huge factor in their win, as his back-to-back three-pointers midway through the fourth period put Rain or Shine ahead, 102-100, after trailing by double-digits for most of the second and third quarters.
He drained another triple to open the extra period, putting the Elasto Painters on top for good.
"My teammates give a lot of confidence in me," he said. "I haven't been shooting the ball well at all this conference, so I just wanted to stay aggressive, take open shots, and take the ones they were giving me."
"Luckily enough, they dropped late in the game," said Norwood, who converted four of 12 shots but came through with the key baskets.
The veteran said it will be crucial for Rain or Shine to build on the win against San Miguel.
"At the end of the day, anytime you beat San Miguel early in the conference, it's big," he said. "We're sitting at 4-1 right now, so hopefully, we can maintain it."
Rain or Shine will try to grab their fifth win next Sunday against GlobalPort.
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