MANILA - Rey Nambatac made the big plays in crunch time to power Rain or Shine to a crucial 83-81 triumph over Meralco in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The narrow victory kept the Elasto Painters in the hunt for a berth in the quarterfinals, as they finished the elimination round with a 4-7 win-loss record. As it stands, they can force a tie for seventh place and battle in a playoff for the 8th seed.
"Big win for us," said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia after the game. "Whatever happens, we showed heart today. We were able to beat a strong team, and that's a testament to the hard work of the locals."
"Having (import) Rich (Ross) with the team changed a lot of things, and sayang -- sana maaga siya dumating," he added. "You can see that he's a winner, he wants to win."
A win by Meralco would have knocked out the Elasto Painters from playoff contention, and the game appeared headed for that result after the Bolts took a 69-60 lead after three quarters.
Ross, however, refused to let that happen. He anchored an 11-0 blast to open the final period, giving the Elasto Painters a 71-69 lead with 6:22 left.
It was a tight game from there, with Meralco's Allen Durham knotting the count before a jumper by Ross gave the Elasto Painters gave the lead for good, 73-71, with 5:49 left.
Nambatac drilled a booming triple with 4:19 to go for a 77-71 spread, and answered a Chris Newsome layup with a bucket of his own to maintain a 6-point advantage for ROS, 79-73.
Meralco came to within two points, 79-77, off a Raymond Almazan putback before Norbert Torres' split at the line made it a three-point game.
The E-Painters dodged a bullet when Durham bricked two charities with 1:50 to go, and Nambatac again came through when he lofted a floater over Durham for an 82-77 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Meralco threatened anew when Almazan's putback of a miss by Newsome made it a one-point game, 82-81. They were still within distance, 83-81, after Jewel Ponferrada made just one of two charities.
But out of a Meralco timeout, Nambatac came up with a big steal against Bong Quinto. The Bolts still had a chance when Durham blocked Ross on the other end and raced down the floor, but Almazan muffed his layup at the last second, allowing Rain or Shine to escape.
"Rey hit a big shot. We just have to hope for the next game," said Garcia, referring to the upcoming Ginebra-NorthPort game. A win by the Batang Pier will eliminate the Elasto Painters.
Ross finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Nambatac had 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
Squandered in the loss was a 23-point, 16-rebound output by Durham, and Almazan's 18-point, 19-rebound double-double.
The Bolts finished the elimination round with an 8-3 record. They are already assured of a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Rain or Shine 83 - Ross 26, Nambatac 24, Exciminiano 8, Borboran 4, Ponferada 4, Mocon 4, Norwood 4, Rosales 3, Torres 3, Belga 3, Daquioag 0.
Meralco 81 - Durham 23, Amer 18, Almazan 18, Newsome 12, Quinto 6, Pinto 2, Caram 2, Faundo 0, Hodge 0, Salva 0.
Quarterscores: 23-21, 41-42, 60-69, 83-81.