Troy Rosario says TnT Katropa ready to handle cards dealt to them in early faceoff with SMB
Troy Rosario shot all of his 18 points in the first half against Phoenix. Jerome Ascano

AN unfinished business and a possible early exit were enough motivation for Troy Rosario to play his best in TnT Katropa’s final game in the eliminations of the PBA Philippine Cup Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The lanky forward poured in all of his game-high 18 points in the first half in leading the Katropa to a 118-97 rout of the Phoenix Fuel Masters to clinch the eighth and last berth in the quarterfinals of the all-Filipino conference.

Rosario was 7-of-12 from the field and added four rebounds for good measure to finally bury the tragic memory that befell him during TnT’s first meeting with Phoenix, which saw the former National University standout suffer a nasty fall and failed to finish the game, which the Katropa lost, 74-72.

He admitted the incident remains fresh in his mind, although the fine showing was borne more on his desire to help the team defy outright elimination.

No less than team owner Manny V. Pangilinan visited the Katropa inside the dugout just before the game to give them a pep talk, which mentioned about TnT not being eliminated this early in a tournament for a long while.

“Importante talaga sa amin itong game na ito, kasi once na matalo kami, out kami. First time yata mangyari simula nung pumasok ako sa TnT (2015) na ma-eliminate (ang team), na hindi makapasok sa quarterfinals.”

“Gusto ko lang talagang makatulong sa team.”

But it’s going to be a difficult path TnT would be trekking if it plans to go deep into the playoffs.

Waiting for them at the entrance door of the quarterfinals is no less than three-time defending champion San Miguel Beer, which by virtue of clinching the no. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, enjoy a twice-to-beat edge against TnT.

Rosario is aware of the tough job ahead of them, but said it is what it is as the Katropa have to handle the cards dealt to them.

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“Mabigat talaga. Kahit kailan naman ang San Miguel laging nandiyan. Lagi kaming nantatapat, sa quarters, minsan sa semis,” he said.

“Kung gusto mong manalo, dadaan ka muna sa kanila.”

TnT gets a crack against the reigning champion on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. And should it manage to force a do-or-die game, the two tangles anew on Thursday at the Big Dome.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos