TNT busted the three-game winning streak of NorthPort, 102-92, to clinch the top seed in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
MIkey Williams continued his outburst with a game-high 29 points, while Kib Montalbo submitted a career-high 22 as the two played a huge role in the win that also assured the Tropang Giga a twice-to-beat edge for the quarters.
“In any tournament, you want to grab any advantage that you can. So all that this means for us is we have an advantage. But that advantage is not going to mean anything if we don’t take advantage of that,” said head coach Chot Reyes.
Williams sank a three-pointer from the wing just before the break to put his side up 42-41 after trailing for most of the first half, and they would never relinquish their hold of the lead by following it up with a big second half.
The Fil-Am gunslinger and his sophomore partner went on to combine for 22 of the Texters’ 34 team points in the third quarter alone.
The Batang Pier, though, got to within single digits multiple times in the final period, but the young guards spearheaded a 13-3 run that turned an eight-point lead to a 100-83 advantage with exactly three minutes left to play.
“I thought we caught a break today because NorthPort was playing very, very good basketball,” said Reyes.
Troy Rosario had 18 points and six rebounds, while Kelly Williams added 11 in the win that hiked TNT’s record to 9-1. They have a chance to end their eliminations on a winning note versus Alaska on Saturday at 4:35 p.m.
“It’s nice to be in the position we’re in,” said the five-time Coach of the Year, “but we’re still a long way from being even done. We’re not thinking about that too much. We just want to focus on continuing to get better.”
The Texters played a NorthPort side that did not have Sean Anthony and Greg Slaughter. The former was out because of bone spurs while the 7-foot slotman did not play for the second straight game due to cellulitis.
Reyes said that it helped, since they also did not have defensive specialist Glenn Khobuntin for the fourth game in a row due to thigh issues.
“The fact that Greg and Sean Anthony were out tonight, I thought that was big for us. It kind of cushioned us not having Glenn Khobuntin as well. So I think that was a big factor,” said the champion mentor.
Paolo Taha led the Batang Pier with 20 points in the defeat that definitely wasn’t the kind of welcome Pido Jarencio had wanted. He and his entire staff have rejoined the team after weeks of observing health and safety protocols.
Kevin Ferrer had 17 points, as Jamie Malonzo added 15 markers on the day Robert Bolick was the focal point of the opposing squad’s defense as he got limited to 12 points on 16 shots. He had 11 assists, however.
NorthPort was coming off a stellar run last week that saw it win all its three games, but all that is in the past now. It fell to 4-4 following the loss, although it is still sitting at sixth in the standings.
The Batang Pier will look to bounce back on Friday, although it won’t be easy as they will go up against the no. 3 Magnolia (6-3) at 12:30 p.m.
TNT 102 – M. Williams 29, Montalbo 22, Rosario 18, K. Williams 11, Castro 9, Reyes 6, Heruela 4, Pogoy 3, Erram 0, Alejandro 0, Marcelo 0, Mendoza 0.
NorthPort 92 – Taha 20, Ferrer 17, Malonzo 15, Bolick 12, Grey 10, Onwubere 9, Balanza 4, Lanete 4, Elorde 1.
Quarterscores: 19-22, 42-41, 76-64, 102-92.