MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — James Yap turned back the clock, mounting his best performance in years and helping Rain or Shine dispose of a pesky GlobalPort side in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series at the Mall of Arena Thursday.
Yap, now 36, accounted for 27 points for the Elasto Painters. His long-range marksmanship enabled his team to generate separation as wide as 15 points. He finished with a 7-of-10 clip from deep.
“It feels good to win,” Painters head coach Caloy Garcia expressed. "After the loss in Game One where we lost by a point, some teams would just give up. But these guys came out and played good.
"Hands down to James. It’s the best game he played for the team. Last game, he played well. But he came out better,” he added.
“It’s a do-or-die game, he stepped up big. That’s why they call him ‘Big Game James,’” Garcia said of his veteran.
Import Reggie Johnson paced Rain or Shine with 29 points, 15 boards and six dimes.
Yap, who tallied only 16 points in their previous outing which Rain or Shine lost, registered his best scoring performance in the last four seasons. He was shipped to the Elasto Painters’ side in October 2016 after lending his wares and to the Star franchise (now Magnolia), where he won seven PBA titles.
GlobalPort, for their part, didn’t go out quietly. After scoring a cardiac upset in their first meeting, the 8th-ranked club looked poised to pull the rug on their foes.
Nico Elorde and Stanley Pringle hit crucial shots to narrow the gap to just four with 45 ticks left on the clock.
But behind Johnson and Gabe Norwood’s steady hands from the stripe, the Elasto Painters managed to preserve their bid for a title in the mid-season joust.
The victory marks the first time Rain or Shine has made it to the semifinals since their 2016 title run in the same conference.
The Elasto Painters arranged a best-of-five duel against crowd darlings Barangay Ginebra. Their series begins on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Ginebra’s probably playing the best [brand of] basketball in this league,” Garcia said of their next assignment. “It’s gonna be hard to beat them especially with the way they’re playing.”
“We just have to motivate the players to play harder,” he closed.
The other semifinal pairing will feature defending conference champions San Miguel Beermen taking on the No. 2-ranked Alaska Aces.?
Rain or Shine 103 - Johnson 29, Yap 27, Almazan 16, Tiu 12, Norwood 7, Belga 7, Ponferada 3, Daquioag 2, Ahanmisi 0, Borboran 0.
GlobalPort 97 - Pringle 23, Javelona 18, White 12, Grey 10, Anthony 10, Tautuaa 7, Taha 6, Teng 3, Espinas 2, Elorde 2, Gabayni 2.
Quarters: 24-22, 46-38, 75-67, 103-97.