TNT KaTropa again brought its best with its back against the wall as it walloped Phoenix, 118-97, on Sunday night to catch the last bus to the playoffs of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Coming off a 101-75 rout of NLEX in a must-win situation in their last game of the eliminations, the Texters broke out from a tight game against the Fuel Masters in the third quarter where they unloaded 40 points to coast to the victory in their playoff for the eighth seed.
Troy Rosario was on target from long range while Jericho Cruz continued to provide the firepower that had been lacking before he came as they paced the balanced effort of the Texters for them to earn the right to challenge twice-to-beat top seed San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals.
“Buhay pa,” TNT coach Nash Racela said. “At this point of the conference, all you want is a day to live. Every game to us is a do-or-die game.”
The Texters were tested early on as they fell behind by nine points, 12-21, only to erase it with a 15-4 run to end the first quarter on top. After engaging the Fuel Masters in see-saw battle, the Texters came out with guns blazing after intermission, outscoring Phoenix, 40-27, in the third quarter, to spark the blowout.
Rosario, playing against the same team they faced in the eliminations last February 7 when he hit his head after a scary fall and was taken out, didn’t need to finish the game again – but for the right reasons this time as he fired all his team-high 18 points, built around four triples, in the first half.
Cruz added 17 points, three boards, two assists, two steals, and one block in his second game since being traded from Rain or Shine as seven players scored in double digits for the Texters, who led by as many as 29 points.
Jayson Castro flirted with a triple-double of 17 points, nine assists, and eight boards, along with two steals, one block, and only one turnover in less than 24 minutes, firing 10 of his output in that telling third-quarter rally.
Matthew Wright led the Fuel Masters with 17 points, but missed all but one of his six triples and committed six turnovers .
TNT 118 — Rosario 18, Castro 17, Cruz 17, Pogoy 15, Semerad 12, Williams 11, Tautuaa 10, Reyes 5, Garcia 4, Tamsi 4, Paredes 3, Nuyles 2, Carey 0, Golla 0, Torres 0
PHOENIX 97 — Wright 18, Kramer 16, Alolino 13, Jazul 11, Perkins 10, Chan 9, Mendoza 7, Eriobu 5, Intal 4, Guevarra 2, Wilson 2, Cortes 0, Dehesa 0, Gamboa 0
Quarterscores: 27-25, 54-49, 94-76, 118-97