Rain or Shine sustained its surge all the way from the elimination round, repeating over Magnolia Pambansang Manok, 84-77, in the opener of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday night.
A number of times, Beau Belga flexed his muscles after a basket made in the fourth quarter, and the burly center proved a big key in a gutsy ROS effort that put to a halt Magnolia's own romp.
The Hotshots had won five of their last six outings going to the series opener.
But the E-Painters showed their deep resolve from the get-go, starting with a startling 10-0 romp.
The Hotshots, however, had their quick reply, and the two teams engaged in a duel of runs won by the E-Painters as they seized control to stay on a 10-2 tear early in the fourth.
Belga thrice flexed his muscles in that stretch as he poured in nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a big trey that made it 79-71 with less than five minutes left to play.
Javee Mocon, Gabe Norwood and Ed Daquiaog were the other lead lights as the Elasto Painters repeated their 76-75 conquest of the Hotshots in the elims.
Mocon, in his first PBA semifinal game, came through with a double-double game with 15 points and 10 rebounds that went with two assists and one steal against two turnovers.
"I just have to step up; we actually all have to step up as it's the semifinals," said Mocon, also paying tribute to their defense.
"We stuck to playing tough defense. Yun naman ang dahilan kung bakit kami nandito ngayon. Yun ang dahilan kung paano kami nakarating dito," said Mocon.
From their long breather, the E-Painters came well prepared for the Hotshots and their vaunted pressing game.
They played their own pressure defense and attacking game. It was at its best in the final half where they outscored the Hotshots, 51-40.
Interestingly, the E-Painters limited themselves to 12 errors while forcing the Hotshots to commit 24. And they cashed in on it, beating Magnolia, 26-9, on points off turnovers.
A curious start of the game saw the E-Painters start with a 10-0 binge then the Hotshots answer with their own 10-0 salvo.
Magnolia moved ahead at 12-11 on a basket by Ian Sangalang then the two teams engaged in a nip-and-tuck contest before the Hotshots took the half at 37-33. (SB)
Rain or Shine 84 - Mocon 15, Norwood 13, Belga 12, Daquioag 10, Rosales 9, Yap 8, Nambatac 7, Borboran 6, Ponefrada 2, Torres 2, Ahanmisi 0.
Magnolia 77 - Lee 15, Sangalang 13, Barroca 12, Jalalon 11, Reavis 9, Melton 7, Ramos 4, Brondial 4, Dela Rosa 2, Simon 0, Herndon 0.
Quarters: 19-16, 33-37, 61-58, 84-77.