BATANGAS City - The early foul trouble of Glen Rice Jr turned out to be a blessing in disguise for TnT Katropa.
With the prolific import sitting on the bench in the entire third quarter, the TnT locals delivered and held the fort, before Rice came back in the payoff period and did the most damage in the team's 102-96 win over Barangay Ginebra that levelled their PBA Governors Cup semifinals series Wednesday night.
Fresh from a long rest after being whistled for his fourth foul just before halftime, Rice poured 12 of his 21 points in the final quarter to help the Katropa keep the defending champions at bay and win Game 2 on the road at the Batangas City Coliseum here.
The best-of-five affair is now locked at one-game apiece with Game 3 set this Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Nash Racela said Rice being foul-plagued early on worked to the advantage of his team.
"The locals played well and played together in the third quarter," said Racela as Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, and Roger Pogoy took the cudgels for the Katropa as Rice sat on the bench.
"That just gave Glen the whole quarter to rest," added the TnT coach. "So he (Rice) came fresh in the fourth quarter."
With Rice and Rosario leading the way, the Katropa appeared ready to pull away early when they raced to an 18-point spread, 33-15, in the second quarter.
But the Kings made a fight out of it, and with Rice committing his fourth foul with three minutes left in the period, the reigning champs capitalized and managed to trim the gap at 49-47 by halftime.
Just when the pro-Ginebra crowd here expected a TnT meltdown in the second half, the opposite happened.
Castro, Rosario, and Pogoy took over from Rice and outplayed the Kings until the TnT import was good enough to be back on the floor starting the fourth.
"I think it backfired putting Glen Rice in foul trouble early," added Racela.