TNT KaTropa refused to flinch in the presence of the barking dogs of San Miguel Beer this time, hacking out a 102-97 victory to tie the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at two games apiece on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
A day after TNT coach Nash Racela compared the Beermen to barking dogs protecting their territory, the Texters showed commendable character as old reliables Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo brought them home after young guns Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy bounced back from scoreless outings and gave them an early lift.
Joshua Smith also kept his composure amid the physicality as he muscled his way to 20 points and 15 boards in 30 minutes in a rare start a day before his wife, Kristy, is expected to give birth, a momentous occasion the Texters celebrated by putting “Kristy” patches on their jerseys.
“It’s a hard-fought ballgame…but all we did was tie the series,” a relieved Racela said in post-game conference.
The Texters can move closer to trespassing into SMB’s championship territory with a win in Game Five of the best-of-seven series on Friday night also at the Big Dome.
Castro took better care of the leather with only two turnovers, ending up with 17 points, highlighted by a shifty reverse layup that proved to be the dagger down the stretch, on top of four assists, one board, and one block in 23 minutes off the bench.
De Ocampo also converted two crucial layups in the endgame as he finished with 13 points, five boards, three assists, and one block in 27 minutes.
Pogoy and Rosario finally broke into the scoring column after firing blanks in Game Three as they combined for 20 points in the first half and finished with 14 and 13 markers, respectively.
Chris Ross was held to just eight points and four assists on the same day he was named Best Player of the Conference as the jinx of awardees stayed alive. Newly minted Best Import Charles Rhodes had a better performance with 22 points and eight boards, but was ejected in the endgame after picking up his second technical foul.
June Mar Fajardo, a five-time BPC awardee, was held to just 13 points and nine boards, and committed five turnovers before fouling out after less than 27 minutes of play.
“Let them get the individual awards. Let’s get the team award,” Racela told his wards after the awarding ceremony before the game. “That’s more important.”
And the Texters are one step closer to that goal after the series is back to square one.
TNT 102 – Smith 20, Castro 17, Pogoy 14, Rosario 13, R. De Ocampo 13, Garcia 10, Tautuaa 6, Rosales 3, Reyes 3, Williams 2, Semerad 1, Carey 0
SMB 97 – Rhodes 22, Cabagnot 18, Lassiter 14, Fajardo 13, Santos 12, Ross 8, Y. De Ocampo 4, Tubid 3, Heruela 3, Espinas 0, Semerad 0, McCarthy 0, Van Opstal 0, Agovida 0
Quarterscores: 27-24, 49-47, 73-76, 102-97