SLR 92, RoS 85

On: 10 January 2009

PBA's 34th Season

Sta. Lucia Realty used a good finish to overcome a slow start and a mediocre shooting, disposing of Rain or Shine, 92-85, to become the first PBA All-Filipino reigning champion in the last four years to get a return stint in the Final Four.

Kelly Williams, Dennis Espino and Paolo Mendoza picked up their game and played steady in the second half, leading the Realtors to a two-game sweep of the Elasto Painters for a ticket to the 2008-09 KFC PBA Philippine Cup semifinal round versus the Alaska Milk Aces.

"As I expected, Rain or Shine gave us a tough time though they played minus Gabe Norwood. They did a good job playing zone defense. I have to commend Paolo Mendoza for stepping up and breaking Rain or Shine's defense in the third quarter. I also laud Cap (Dennis Espino) for providing the leadership as we fought back in the second half," said Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez.

"So we're back in the semis, giving us the chance to defend the crown. It's gonna be a tough task playing Alaska. We'll try to get some good rest and hopefully make good preparation for the semis," Fernandez added.

"We have no choice but to get ready for a war versus Alaska," said Espino, big performer Friday versus the Elasto Painters in the absence of Marlou Aquino.

With Aquino serving a suspension as a result of his flagrant infraction Wednesday, Espino played extended minutes, churning out 19 points, five rebounds, two blocks and one assist.

Joseph Yeo also finished with 19 with Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams and Mendoza each adding at least 13 as the Realtors duplicated their 101-84 win in Game One marred by a near free-for-all causing the ejection and one-game suspension of Rain or Shine prolific rookie Gabe Norwood.

Minus Norwood, the Elasto Painters still managed to put up a fight but faded away as pressure mounted in the final half.

Mendoza, Espino and Williams combined for the key shots shattering the Rain or Shine bid.

Rain or Shine failed to move further in its first ever playoff appearance. The team finishes in the tourney either fifth or sixth, depending on the result of the San Miguel-Ginebra duel.

The Realtors survived a poor 28.9-percent shooting as they made a decisive romp in the third quarter and sustained their assault in the final period.

After a long chase, the Realtors surged ahead at 59-54 on a 16-3 salvo also starring Mendoza and Espino.

The Elasto Painters regained the lead for the last time at 69-68 before Mendoza touched off another key run enabling the Realtors to complete the sweep.

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