Rain or Shine's second unit shines anew
MANILA, Philippines – Even without three key contributors -- Gabe Norwood, Jireh Ibañes, and Raymond Almazan -- the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters were still too much for a much-improved Phoenix squad to handle.
Almazan was still dealing with a calf injury and was expected to miss the game. Norwood's absence, however, was a surprise, with coach Caloy Garcia later revealing that the veteran guard is dealing with sore eyes.
Yet even without them, the Elasto Painters still came away with a comfortable 97-82 victory on Sunday in their PBA Philippine Cup game against the Fuel Masters.
As has been the norm for Rain or Shine in recent years, other players stepped up in their stars' absence. Chief among them was Jericho Cruz, who had 21 points off the bench – nine of which came in a crucial fourth-quarter stretch that quelled any possibility of a Phoenix comeback.
"They're good from one to 10," Phoenix rookie Matthew Wright said after the game. "They got two starting line-ups. Guys on the bench can start on almost any team. They're a very good team."
Led by Cruz, Rain or Shine's bench out-scored their Phoenix counterparts, 56-28. Garcia got solid minutes from rookie Mike Tolomia and veteran Ronnie Matias. Don Trollano, meanwhile, started for only the second time in the conference but immediately set the tone with his aggressive play in the first quarter.