Rain or Shine clawed back from six points down in the final four minutes of the quarterfinals against Ginebra using a solid defense to eke out a 92-91 win and earn a ticket to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The Kings were still ahead 82-76 before a defensive adjustment by Elasto Painters Head Coach Yeng Guiao proved to be the turning point of the match. Guiao placed his primary stopper Gabe Norwood on the Ginebra point guard for ball pressure. The result? It delayed what Ginebra was supposed to run on offense.
Along with Norwood on the floor were Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Wayne Chism, and Raymond Almazan. That unit was virtually the same as the one that helped them pull away against Kia (Chris Tiu was the SG instead of Chan).
“Gabe is always our best stopper so in crucial possessions, we want him on the ball. Kung sino man ‘yung point guard namin, magswitch na lang sila and Gabe will make it difficult for the [opponent’s] ball handler,” Guiao shared after a hard-fought win. “True to form naman, and it isn’t a new strategy. Basta may key possession na kailangan i-defend, he is always going to be our key defender.”
It also bothered the Kings’ ball-handler as they went small (LA Tenorio-Josh Urbiztondo-Jayjay Helterbrand). This is where Norwood used his length and size to handcuff the smaller Ginebra guards.
In one play, Urbiztondo tried to locate Mike Dunigan for a high-low play. However, Norwood read the entry pass perfectly and tapped it away. Rain or Shine immediately stepped on the gas pedal and it led to a split from the foul line from Paul Lee, giving his team an 85-84 edge.
Later, with Ginebra ahead 91-90, Tenorio called a pick and roll play with Greg Slaughter but it was successfully defended by Raymond Almazan, who showed up to prevent deep penetration from Tenorio. Chism slid underneath and it also stopped Ginebra from doing a roll.
Tenorio adjusted and drove right but Almazan switched and defended him. The Rain or Shine defense also collapsed, forcing Tenorio to give it to Helterbrand after having trouble underneath. However, it was Norwood who was hounding the other Ginebra guard resulting to Helterbrand throwing a kickout pass to Dunigan which he was never able to get. The turn of events eventually set up Chan’s uncontested go-ahead basket, and it was a result of constant pressure on defense.
Finally, in the final play with 4.9 seconds left, Helterbrand saw a small opening and attacked the lane, but Norwood immediately stopped him on his tracks and forced him to throw up a wild shot.
“Usually in those situations, it’s me on the ball. I just try to distract the pass. I am not sure if that was the play but Helterbrand attacked hard and I just cut him off,” Norwood said. “I just have to use [my size] to my advantage. There are guys who are smaller and quicker so I have to use my length.”
Against another team with size, Guiao made sure to put quicker bigs on the floor so all five of his wards can rotate well defensively.
“Almazan played like a veteran. He was at least 20 pounds lighter than his opponents but he just kept fighting. That’s a sign of maturity,” Guiao added.
“That [Chism-Almazan] is a good combination, and Almazan needs to gain that experience in handling those situations for him to mature even more. Iniwan ko na siya sa floor and that is going to improve his confidence even more.”
Defense once again took Rain or Shine to another level and with this mindset, who knows where the Elasto Painters can go.