After Jayson Castro set the Smart Araneta Coliseum floor on fire, by scoring 27 first-half points anchored on four straight triples in a span of three minutes, and a 7-for-9 three-point clip overall in 15 minutes, a feeling of doubt surfaced inside the venue and everywhere else.
“Can Rain or Shine beat Talk ‘N Text?”
“Do they deserve to be in the finals?”
“How can you stop Jayson Castro?”
The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters led 62-49 and appeared – based on the hot sniping – to be on their way to a commanding 2-0 edge in the best-of-7 PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals series.
However, the Elasto Painters changed the complexion of the match in the second half, proving to the PBA world – detractors and believers alike – why they are one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league, as they overcame a 17-point gap with a mixture of both scoring and getting stops.
Talk ‘N Text’s 58-41 bubble became distant memory, and the focal point of Rain or Shine’s resurgence in the second half was a little aid from Jireh Ibañes defensively.
“Sabi (ni Coach Yeng Guiao) we just have to weather the storm, gawan lang ng paraan and stay with him. It just so happened it clicked. Nagising yung team. If we went down this game, tapos na, so sabi ko dapat may effort and go all out,” Ibañes, who finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, said.
“That’s what we do best. That’s how we win. Once na tamarin ko or hindi kami mag-exert ng effort, tapos na kami, so sana magtuloy-tuloy. Yun ang advantage namin e, kasi talent-wise malaki ang lamang nila e. Yung talent and puso namin.”
Always known for being a tough defender, Ibañes shaded Castro and held him to only 4-for-10 in the second half. Castro managed to finish with 44 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists but all of his dimes came in the first half.
Aside from negating his three-point shot, Ibañes stopped Castro from creating baskets for the Texters. Coach Jong Uichico’s wards had to bleed for their points as a result, and the crew was outscored by the Elasto Painters 67-46 in the second half.
Ibañes added that defending one of the best players in this generation is no easy walk in the park, but he just did his job as a perimeter defender.
“Oh my goodness. Sobrang bilis niya. Bihira ko siya makatapat pero yung respeto ko, best point guard in Asia yan e. Masarap dumepensa. Mahirap pero sana magawan ng paraan,” he said.
“Basta kung sino makatapat, yes. That’s my job. It just so happened nagclick. Napakalaki nito dahil best of 5 na lang. Kung natalo kami, yung other leg down the drain na. Nawawalan na siya (Guiao) ng gana e pero when we won the game bumalik yung respeto at tiwala niya samin.”
Rain or Shine’s defense was the difference-maker in Game 2, and it knotted the series to 1-all. Ibañes was an integral part of it, and his defensive stand in Game 2 is validation of why the Painters have kept him ever since.