If this is indeed the end for Chris Tiu, he made sure it his exit would be one worth remembering.
For the third time in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup, Tiu set a new career high in scoring as he notched 30 points in their 107-101 win against the NLEX Road Warriors Saturday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
For much of the conference, the biggest problem for Rain or Shine was the performance of their imports. Apparently, the solution for them was not to play an import at all. The Elasto Painters sported an all-local crew against NLEX and they were not even near full strength as they were without Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, and Maverick Ahanmisi.
It was Tiu's inspired play that turned it around for Rain or Shine as his teammates rallied around him.
After Tiu, four more members of Rain or Shine scored in double digits as Jewel Ponferrada added 13, Norbert Torres and Dexter Maiquez scored 12 each, and rookie Rey Nambatac chipped in 10
The Elasto Painters were fighting for nothing else but pride as they were already out of the running for the playoffs. The Road Warriors' fate, on the other end, also had their fate sealed as they could only finish at the seventh or eighth spots and face a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals.
It was a tough conference for the Elasto Painters that started late because of this stint in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. They were also slowed down by the inclusion of their players and coaches in the Gilas Pilipinas squad that competed in the last window of the FIBA Asian Qualifiers. However, head coach Caloy Garcia refused to blame their stints for the country for their struggles.
"I told management that I don't think being in the Asian Games was the reason," Garcia said during the post-game press conference.
"We started flat with J'Nathan (Bullock) and then, when we replaced him, Terrence (Watson) got sick after arriving. After that, we lost Raymond and Beau got injured so it was a combination of a lot of things that cost us this conference. Hopefully next time we'll get a good import that really jives well with the locals so we can have a better performance."
Three-point shooting was the biggest weapon for NLEX in the first half where they led by as much as 16. Led by Bong Galanza who nailed three triples in the first 24 minutes for a total of 10 at the half for the Road Warriors. However, the all-local crew of ROS clawed their way back into the game in the second period led by Tiu, Ponferrada, and Sidney Onwubere as they were only down by five points, 51-46, at the half.
The Painters then poured it on in the third period where they outscored NLEX 36-23 to take complete control of the game as they led by as much as 20 points before cruising to their season-ending win.
Aaron Fuller led NLEX with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists.
Rain or Shine 107 - Tiu 30, Ponferrada 13, Torres 12, Maiquez 12, Nambatac 10, Yap 8, Norwood 8, Daquioag 6, Onwubere 5, Borboran 3, Washington 0, Casino 0.
NLEX 101 - Fuller 29, Galanza 14, Miranda 12, Paniamogan 11, Taulava 9, Fonacier 8, Tiongson 5, Mallari 4, Quinahan 3, Rios 3, Monfort 3, Ighalo 0, Baguio 0, Marcelo 0, Tallo 0.
Quarters: 17-31, 46-51, 82-74, 107-101.
-- NLEX will now wait for the results of the remaining games before finding out if which team they will be facing in the quarterfinals.
-- Alex Mallari came back to the active roster for NLEX after suffering an ankle injury in practice. He finished with four points, five rebounds, and three assists.