Big plays from Beau Belga, Rey Nambatac and Leonardo Santillan pushed the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters to a thrilling 79-77 beating of the Converge Fiber Xers Sunday night at the start of the Philippine Basketball Association 2022-23 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Belga struck with a triple with 14 seconds left, handing back the lead for the Elasto Painters for the last time, 78-77.
Nambatac then stole off Jeron Teng in the last five seconds, denying the Fiber Xers a chance to go win their debut game in the league.
Santillan then knocked in split charity with two seconds remaining for the final tally after Teron fouled him in the final play.
The 6’5” Santillan drilled in 18 points and nine rebounds for the Elasto Painters, while Belga sank 17 points, including four of eight three-point attempts.
“We anticipated the ball was going to go to Teng. And we just took it from there,” said Santillan.
Teng showed the way for Converge with 13 points and 13 rebounds and it was his driving layup with 23 ticks remaining, which allowed the Fiber Xers to break the 75-all tie and grab the upperhand for the last time at 77-75, before Belga hit his go-ahead trey.
Alex Stockton scored a career-high 13 points for Converge, who tied the contest five times.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra star Scottie Thompson was crowned Season 46 Most Valuable Player in the Leo Awards, also on Sunday.
Thompson became the newest toast in the league, replacing San Miguel Beer star June Mar Fajardo, who earned the league’s highest individual award in the last six seasons.
He is also the first guard and the first Ginebra player to bring home the coveted plum since Mark Caguioa took it in 2012.
Thompson beat TNT star Mikey Williams, Philippine Cup BPC Calvin Abueva of Magnolia and NorthPort main man Robert Bolick for the title.