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“Big Game James” strikes on former team as ROS keeps Magnolia winless

James Yap caught fire at the right time. Nina Carezon (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA — James Yap broke the heart of his former team as the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters added more worries to the Magnolia Hotshots with a 75-74 win in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on Wednesday night.

Yap scored the marginal three-point play with 3.2 seconds left as ROS kept a struggling Magnolia squad from stealing the win to stay in the top spot entering the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers break.

The E-Painters pounced on a lowly Hotshots side in the first half, opening a 31-17 lead with 8:11 remaining before halftime.

Magnolia then began coming alive later in the second, going on an 8-0 run sparked by back-to-back triples from Robbie Herndon to trim the lead down to six, 31-25.

Although ROS held on at halftime, Magnolia threatened anew and was within two, 41-43, with 7:49 left in the third quarter.

The E-Painters appeared to have restored order after going on a 7-0 run to stretch their lead to nine, 50-41, with 5:03 left in the third.

But an 8-2 run by the Hotshots trimmed the gap back to three, 52-49, with 3:20 left in the said quarter.

ROS had another chance to break away after opening a 62-55 lead with 8:50 left in the fourth period.

But Magnolia went on a 13-2 run capped to take the lead, 68-64, with 3:26 remaining and appeared to be holding on.

Yap, however, began going “Big Game James” mode by draining a triple that tied the game, 70-all, with 1:13 to play.

ROS had a chance to reclaim the lead as Mark Barroca lost the ball out of bounds in the next play, but Beau Belga found his pass intercepted by Rome Dela Rosa, who went all the way for the layup to put Magnolia ahead once more, 72-70, with 32.5 seconds remaining.

Belga made up for his crucial turnover by scoring a layup despite a foul from Rodney Brondial to knot the count anew at 72-all with 19.6 seconds remaining.

Belga, however, missed the bonus free throw and Dela Rosa once again stepped up with a crucial rebound, giving the Hotshots 17 seconds to map out a play.

Paul Lee then took matters on his own, driving his way to the lane and scored on a short fallaway jumper with 6.2 seconds remaining to give them a 74-72 lead.

Yap then responded with the eventual game-winner, getting Dela Rosa to the fake and shot his patented one-handed jumper in plus the ensuing bonus charity off the foul.

Magnolia had a chance to steal the win, but ROS’ tough defense forced Ian Sangalang to step outside the three-point line to take the ball.

Sangalang was then met by the double team, forcing him to take a wild floated that he missed as time expired.

Yap finished with 18 points and five rebounds for the E-Painters, who now have five straight wins and are now at 7-1.

Maverick Ahanmisi added 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block.

Sangalang and Barroca each fired 16 markers for the Hotshots, who were held to only 27 percent shooting and dropped to 0-3.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno