Hayden Blankley starred as Bay Area put its win-once incentive into good use versus Rain or Shine, 126-96, to book the first ticket to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, Friday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
The 22-year-old Australian showed that there’s more to the guest team than its celebrated imports, finishing with 47 points on a blistering 10-of-13 clip from beyond the arc with 10 rebounds for his best performance to date.
He scored 11 of his points in the first half to help the Dragons establish a 60-44 lead at the half, and was also responsible for giving his side its biggest lead of the ball game at 34, 85-51, late in the third quarter.
“It’s the playoffs now, so people have to step up,” said Blankley. “And I just knew, like, I wanted to start the playoffs strongly and get us going.”
His explosion also served as a fitting welcome for the returning Andrew Nicholson, who played a big role in the victory as well with 32 points on 57-percent shooting and eight rebounds — all that after a lengthy layoff.
The veteran big man was brought back in for Myles Powell, who went down with a foot injury during practice mere days ago.
Glen Yang made his presence felt as well with 13 points and 10 assists as all but two players fielded scored at least two points for Bay Area, who shot 55.4-percent from the floor that saw them nail a total of 21 three-pointers.
“Our perimeter players stepped up,” said head coach Brian Goorjian. “And the exciting part for us being part of the PBA is our Chinese players have improved immensely over the course of this competition and it’s credit to the PBA.”
Top seed entering the playoffs, the Dragons will now await for the winner between San Miguel and Converge for their semis foe. The Beermen lead the best-of-three affair and could close it out on Saturday.
Leading the Elasto Painters, meanwhile, was Rey Nambatac, who finished with 19 points after going 11-of-12 from the stripe in the 30-point blowout.
Ryan Pearson had 15 points and five rebounds, while Mike Nieto and Andrei Caracut each chimed in 12 markers in the defeat.
Bay Area 126 – Blankley 47, Nicholson 32, Yang 13, Zhu 9, Song 6, Zheng 5, Lam 5, Liu 4, Ewing 3, Reid 2, Si 0, Ju 0, Zhang 0.
Rain or Shine 96 – Nambatac 19, Pearson 15, Caracut 12, Nieto 12, Asistio 9, Mamuyac 8, Clarito 7, Santillan 7, Belga 3, Ponferrada 1, Norwood 0, Guinto 0, Ildefonso 0, Torres 0.
Quarterscores: 27-16, 60-44, 92-68, 126-96
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.