E-Painters beat Elite in thriller, grab last semis ticket

He’s used to taking big shots all his career from his high school days in Letran to college ball in the same school.

And he would not shy away from it in pro play, especially with his team missing a number of gunners due to injuries.

Rey Nambatac was on target as he took the big shots, lifting Rain or Shine past Blackwater, 85-83, and into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Thursday night.

“Di healthy ang team namin, so kailangan mag-step up,” said Nambatac, shortly after completing a heroic role that sent the E-Painters to a return stint in the semifinals of the midseason tourney.

“Yung mga veterans namin ang nagmo-motivate sa amin. Sabi nila hindi dahil mga bata kami, hindi na kami pwedeng tumira ng big shots,” Nambatac also said.

He took charge at the finish hitting one clutch shot after another, including the marginal basket as the E-Painters set up a best-of-five semis showdown with the reigning all-Filipino five-time champs San Miguel Beermen.

They begin their duel on Saturday. The other semis matchup pitting Barangay Ginebra and TNT KaTropa starts Friday.

Blackwater had a chance to send the game to overtime but import Greg Smith missed his attempt from atop the key.

Carl Montgomery plucked the defensive rebound, and the Rain or Shine bench erupted to a frenzied celebration, hailing a second straight semifinal entry in the season.

The E-Painters also made the semis last conference but lost the series to the Magnolia Hotshots.

Minus James Yap, Maverick Ahanmisi and Ed Daquiaog, the E-Painters worked their way to the semis return, foiling Blackwater’s bid for a first-ever Final Four entry.

In the deciding Game Three, Nambatac stood out with a 21-point game he laced with three three-pointers, four rebounds, four steals and two assists.

“Kailangan magsipag,” said Nambatac, who as the lead gun drew needed help from Montgomery, Javee Mocon, Beau Belga and Gabe Norwood.

Even then, the E-Painters had anxious moments especially as they trailed by 13.

The E-Painters waged a chase and eventually caught up at 75-all on a booming trey by Nambatac himself with 5:20 left.

They then led by five, at 82-77, but the Elite had their own fightback, tying the count at 83 on two booming treys by Mac Belo as against a split from the stripe by Norwood.

Then in Rain or Shine’s final offensive thrust, Nambatac won’t fail his team, draining a twinner with 18 ticks to go.

Misses by Bobby Ray Parks and Smith allowed the E-Painters to escape with the win. —Source: PBA.PH / SB

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