For the second straight game, Rain or Shine import Bruno Sundov sat out long minutes and failed to finish the game due to fouls but his local teammates stuck together to squeeze out a tough win.

Escaping past Air21 the last time, the Elasto Painters did another Houdini act versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings, 96-93, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“It’s just a tribute and credit to the locals for stepping up and working hard to make up for the minutes our import wasn’t able to play,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.

Before a crowd of over 12,000 at the Big Dome, Beau Belga and his teammates passed another character test, and the E-Painters stayed close behind the leaders at 4-1 while the Kings fell deeper down the leaderboard at 1-5.

“We had two lucky escapes against Air21 and this time against Ginebra. For the most part again, our import wasn’t able to play long minutes. It’s really a team effort, the guys helping each other out and we’re finding ways to win,” said Guiao.

Sundov wasn’t there to finish the game and Jeff Chan remained out of it all due to an injury, but the E-Painters just won’t quit.

Belga, Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood knocked in big shots at endgame and Rain or Shine overcame big individual games by Vernon Macklin, Mark Caguioa, Kerby Raymundo and LA Tenorio.

Rain or Shine outperformed Ginebra in playing as a team even after Sundov had fouled out with 3:09 left to play.

In terms of individual performance, Belga shone brightest with his clutch plays, including defensive stoppages on Macklin. He got key rebounds leading to his four charities inside the last 12 seconds. And he personally dashed Ginebra’s last hope in deflecting a long three-point heave by Tenorio at the buzzer.

The former PCU center wound up with team-highs 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks while Sundov was limited to 12 markers and five boards in 24 minutes of action.

Jervy Cruz, Jireh Ibanes, Ryan Arana and Lee contributed double-digit outputs for the E-Painters who have gone 4-0 after a losing conference debut versus the Alaska Milk Aces.

For the Kings, going down the drain were Macklin’s 27 points and 16 rebounds and Raymundo’s conference-best showing of 18 markers and 11 boards.

Caguioa and Tenorio added 18 and 17 points, respectively, but the Kings still played catch-up most of the way.

Ginebra fell behind by 10 twice in the first half and needed lots of patience and perseverance in surging ahead, 71-70, early in the fourth quarter. (SB)

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