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Johnson-less TNT opens Comms Cup title defense with win over Blackwater

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The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters did not have their import Ivan Johnson in their 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup opener, but had an abundance of tools in a close 108-102 win over Blackwater Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Johnson was serving a one-game suspension after a brawl in a tune-up game also against the Elite, but returning Ranidel de Ocampo made his presence felt after tallying 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists for the Tropa.

Reigning Best Player of the Conference winner Jayson Castro scattered a team-high 22 points, including 19 in the first half alone. Castro also hit a dagger triple in the final 53 seconds to push TNT ahead, 106-102, after a gallant fightback from the Elite.

Blackwater trailed by double-digits in the final quarter but were carried back in the game by the heroics of Carlo Lastimosa, who scored a career-high 39 points.

Lastimosa scored six straight points, cutting the deficit down to four for Blackwater before Ryan Reyes drilled a huge triple on the other end.

But Arthur Dela Cruz converted a put back, while MJ Rhett made two free throws under the final two minutes to pull Blackwater within 102-103.

That was when Castro drained the big three that gave TNT more breathing room. Misses by Dela Cruz and Lastimosa on the other end dampened the Elite’s hopes of scoring a comeback win.

Blackwater led in the first quarter, 17-11, before TNT buckled down to work with their outside shooting and transition game to finish the quarter ahead, 29-26.

Later in the third period, Ryan Reyes hit two of three straight long range shots for TNT, which began opening the lead as the team ended the third frame ahead, 83-72.

Reyes and Moala Tautuaa each contributed 16 points for TNT. Rhett disappointed in his first game for the Elite, scoring only 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting, while also committing five turnovers. Three more scored in double-digits for Blackwater.

The Scores:

TNT (108) – Castro 22, De Ocampo 20, R. Reyes 16, Tautuaa 16, Williams 9, Ganuelas 8, Fonacier 7, Carey 6, J. Reyes 4, Ababou 0, Aban 0, Nuyles 0.

Blackwater (102) – Lastimosa 39, Rhett 16, Cervantes 15, Cortez 14, Dela Cruz 11, Reyes 3, Gamalinda 2, Golla 2, Erram 0, Tiongson 0,

Quarterscores: 29-26, 52-44, 83-72, 108-102.

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