TNT KaTropa denies Meralco in overtime thriller, seals semis playoff vs Ginebra
Josh Smith throws his weight around with 31 points and 27 boards. Jaime Campos

TNT KaTropa gave Meralco a dose of its own tonic as it hacked out a 104-96 victory in overtime on Friday night to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.

The Texters squandered an early double-digit lead, then chewed on the defense-oriented Bolts’ own sizeable cushion as they clamped down on defense, most especially on the last play in regulation where Chris Newsome was pressed for outlet options, leading to the turnover that led to the extra session.

Jayson Castro scored the free throw that sent the game into overtime where Joshua Smith asserted his might down low as the burly import finished with 31 points and 27 boards to lead the Texters, who caught the last bus to the Final Four and arranged a best-of-five duel against top seed Barangay Ginebra starting on Sunday night.

“As a coach, you can’t really give up early,” a relieved TNT coach Nash Racela said after the game. “We were down and we had a turnover before that last play of Meralco, but sabi namin na hangga’t hindi tapos, palaging may chance. In the end, we just wanted to force a turnover.”

“Good thing they fouled and we were able to force overtime.”

Castro almost singlehandedly carried the Texters as he finished with 31 points, three boards, two assists, three steals, and one block in 38 minutes, while Roger Pogoy added 13 points and three blocks, including one on Baser Amer late in regulation.

Ranidel de Ocampo, who missed the last game due to an unspecified injury, also provided a late boost as the veteran stretch forward scored all his seven points in the fourth and overtime period.

The result spoiled another brilliant performance from Amer, who scattered 25 points, missed a double-double by a rebound, dished out four assists, and three steals, although the rising sophomore star was held scoreless in overtime.

Clearly frustrated after his error late in the fourth, Newsome committed two crucial fouls in the extra session that led to him fouling out after contributing just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting, nine boards, two assists, and one steal in 45 minutes.


The scores:

TNT 104 – Castro 31, Smith 31, Pogoy 13, Reyes 8, De Ocampo 7, Garcia 7, Williams 6, Semerad 1, Rosario 0, Rosales 0, Carey 0, Tautuaa 0

MERALCO 96 - Amer 25, Dillinger 20, Stepheson 15, Hugnatan 12, Newsome 7, Hodge 6, Caram 6, Daquioag 3, Nabong 2, Uyloan 0

Quarterscores: 29-19, 38-43, 66-73, 89-89, 104-96

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