Justin Arana came through with the biggest shot of his young career as Converge frustrated Rain or Shine, 102-101, to continue its heater run in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Sunday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The rookie put the moves against Santi Santillan underneath for the go-ahead bucket with 15.1 seconds left, and Rey Nambatac’s missed three-pointer on the other end enabled the FiberXers to complete the comeback from 17 down.
Arana finished with 16 points and seven rebounds as the young team collected its seventh win in a row to reach the quarterfinals after Bay Area.
“Yes, it was,” confirmed Converge head coach Aldin Ayo, when asked if the play was made specifically for the 6-foot-6 center.
“Actually it was a botched play. Justin was not able to hit the screen, but the purpose of the inbound was to isolate Justin inside the paint. Well, good thing that Justin was able to convert it. Kudos to the players for executing the plays,” he added.
Jeron Teng top-scored for the FiberXers with 20 points. Quincy Miller had 19 points in a rare off-night from the field, but still had 20 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks in nearly 42 minutes.
Crucial was his role in the endgame as the American forward was the one who inbounded the ball to Arana for the eventual game-winner — that was after he made it a one-point game, 100-101, with 43.8 seconds left.
The quartet of RK Ilagan, Abu Tratter, Aljun Melecio, and Mav Ahanmisi all finished with 11 markers apiece as they all had a hand in erasing an 88-71 deficit to help the FiberXers improve to 8-2 in the standings.
“‘Yung first three quarters, we were sluggish, and there were players who were trying to divert from the things that we usually execute. Good thing that during the fourth quarter, we were able to execute our game plan,” said Ayo.
“I told the players during the break before the fourth quarter, I told them that we put ourselves into this situation, ‘Make sure that we recover.’ I don’t care if we’re going to get tired or anything, but just squeeze everything that you’ve got.”
Converge now has two games left in the elimination round, first against NorthPort next Sunday, November 20, at 4:30 p.m. at the Big Dome still before taking on Barangay Ginebra 10 days later at the Philsports Arena.
“We’re in our third month together now. Nandoon na, may habit na, and we have to stick with the system, and try to be better in doing it,” Ayo said.
The Elasto Painters, on the other hand, were led by the 25 points and 10 rebounds of Ryan Pearson, who actually gave his side the 101-98 lead through a baseline jumper with 51 ticks to go — only for the team to lose hold of it.
Gian Mamuyac had 24 points, Anton Asistio scored 16, while Andrei Caracut and Nambatac chimed in 11 and 10 markers, respectively.
RoS absorbed its second loss in a row and fell to 4-6, making its last two games against Blackwater and no. 1 seed Magnolia must-win affairs.
Converge 102 – Teng 20, Miller 19, Arana 16, Tratter 11, Melecio 11, Ahanmisi 11, Ilagan 11, Stockton 3, DiGregorio 0, Tolomia 0, Racal 0 , Ambohot 0.
Rain or Shine 101 – Pearson 25, Mamuyac 24, Asistio 16, Caracut 11, Nambatac 10, Santillan 6, Belga 4, Norwood 3, Demusis 2, Borboran 0.
Quarterscores: 25-27, 55-57, 69-84, 102-101.
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.