ANTIPOLO –TNT KaTropa turned to a rising Visayan standout to negate a vintage performance of Rain or Shine’s own pride of Visayas as the Texters survived the Elasto-Painters, 105-102, on Sunday to enter the playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on a high note.
Roger Pogoy buried the long jumper that broke the last deadlock of the game to lift the Texters after they wasted an early 16-point lead and saw the E-Painters ride the hot hands of James Yap that thrilled the fans at the packed Ynares Center.
As a result, the Texters finished the eliminations with back-to-back wins – and their eighth overall in 11 games – as they remained in contention for a top-two finish that stakes a twice-to-beat edge.
“I think we’ve been here long enough to know that no lead is safe in the PBA,” TNT coach Nash Racela said. “So importante is for teams to continue to play hard. There should be consistency.”
“I don’t know if there’s still a chance (for a top-two finish), but the important thing is not to be at a twice-to-beat disadvantage,” he added.
The E-Painters lost their second straight game and sixth in 11 games, although they’ve already been assured of a playoff berth coming into the game thanks to former coach Yeng Guiao and NLEX’s two-point win over Phoenix a day ago also in Antipolo.
With that assurance, the E-Painters appeared to enter without a sense of urgency as they allowed the Texters to go up by 16 points, before overhauling the deficit in the second half, even playing with better chemistry when import Duke Crews was ejected after picking up a technical foul halfway through the third quarter.
Yap led the comeback, scoring a game-high-tying 23 points to move just 27 away from joining the elite 10,000-point club, the 14th member if ever.
Three of Yap’s output came from a three-point play that knotted the count for the eighth time at 101 with a little over a minute left, but that set the stage for Pogoy’s heroics on the other end, knocking down a supposed triple that was changed to a two-pointer after a review.
The Texters also turned to import Joshua Smith in keeping the E-Painters at bay as the burly TNT import registered 23 points and 12 boards in just 23 foul-plagued minutes.
TNT 105 – Smith 23, De Ocampo 21, Rosario 11, Reyes 10, Pogoy 10, Tautuaa 9, Garcia 9, Rosales 5, Castro 3, Williams 3, Semerad 1, Carey 0
ROS 102 – Yap 23, Chan 18, Belga 13, Cruz 9, Crews 9, Ponferada 6, Trollano 6, Almazan 6, Washington 5, Tolomia 4, Ahanmisi 3, Norwood 0, Robles 0
Quarterscores: 22-16, 51-39, 78-71, 105-102