Fit-again RR Garcia comes up clutch as TNT KaTropa survives fright from Kia
TNT guard RR Garcia's successive baskets doused a late rally by Kia. Marlo Cueto

TNT KaTropa escaped the upset hammer against Kia, hacking out a 90-85 victory to continue its see-saw PBA Philippine Cup campaign on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Texters saw the cellar-dwelling Picanto put up a worthy challenge, even taking the momentary lead late in the third, before proving steadier down the stretch.

Kelly Williams and Jayson Castro carried most of the load, but it was fit-again RR Garcia who scored crucial back-to-back baskets that sealed the deal for the Texters, who got back on the winning track and improved to a 4-3 win-loss record with alternating results.

The Texters also dealt the Picanto their second straight loss and sixth in seven games – with their lone win coming at the expense of Rain or Shine.

“When you go to a game against Kia, people expect a blowout game. But me as a coach, Instead of focusing on those blowout losses, I was focusing on that win against Rain or Shine,” TNT coach Nash Racela said. “They are unpredictable and dangerous.”

“I don’t think our players got that message,” he added. “Kia really played well tonight…We are the better team, but at the same time, it’s not just in our minds. We should also show it on the court.”

After all, the Picanto stayed within striking distance all-game long, grabbing a 62-58 lead late in the third quarter, before the Texters went on a 13-0 blast bridging the last two quarters to restore order.

Still, Kia refused to budge, keeping it close and pulling to within two points, 85-83, after a Jackson Corpuz layup off a pick-and-roll with a minute and 35 seconds left, before Garcia retaliated with two straight layups, the second a reverse version with 44 seconds to go that spared the Texters; blushes.

Garcia finished with 13 points, five rebounds, one assist, and only one turnover in almost 30 minutes off the bench.

Williams continued to flash his vintage form, tallying 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting, eight boards, one block, and one assist in 32 minutes, while Castro added 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, nine caroms, five assists, one steal, and one block.

Rashawn McCarthy led the Picanto with 21 points, seven assists, four boards, and one steal, while Corpuz added 17 markers, eight boards, three steals, three blocks, and two assists, committing just one error in almost 30 minutes that went for naught.


The scores:

TNT 90 – Williams 23, Castro 22, Garcia 13, Torres 7, Semerad 7, Rosario 6, Pogoy 5, Carey 3, Reyes 2, Onwubere 2, Hernandez 0


KIA 85 – McCarthy 21, Corpuz 17, Galanza 9, Camson 8, Yee 7, Khobuntin 6, Lastimosa 5, Escoto 5, Tubid 3, Gabriel 2, Sara 2, Ababou 0

Quarterscores: 28-24, 42-39, 69-62, 90-85

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