Tropang TNT celebrated their Sunday with a ticket out of the cellar, escaping an NLEX Road Warriors squad that erased a 25-point deficit in the first half, 85-80, Sunday afternoon at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
The first quarter opened to something the PBA had not seen in a while. Rookie wonder Troy Rosario and veteran sharpshooter Ranidel de Ocampo kicked off what would be a 13-0 start for the Tropang Texters, a thundering performance for which the Road Warriors had no answer. By the halfway point of the quarter, TNT had led by as much as 25 points, 29-4. Shrugging off a rocky start, the ever-dependable Al Thornton took on the scoring reins for NLEX and slowly nipped at the massive gap as the end of the first quarter approached. By the end of the first twelve minutes of basketball, the Tropang Texters had scored more than twice the Road Warriors, 34-15.
Come the second quarter, all the help Thornton could find was youngster Garvo Lanete, who had 9 points off the bench in the first half. Despite the Tropang Texters’ heroes in the first quarter taking some much-needed rest on the bench, the gap remained at double-digits. Veterans Harvey Carey and Jai Reyes provided some extra damage to aid import David Simon in keeping the Tropang Texters’ scoring alive. Despite a less spirited offensive display in the second period, TNT still led by double-digits at halftime, 54-35.
The TNT lead bubbled back to as much as 21 points early in the third, but the combined efforts of Thornton and Lanete continued to come to the rescue of NLEX. A late 10-0 run put together by the sweet-shooting NLEX duo saw the Tropang Texters lead get cut to eight with just a minute left to play, 59-67. By the end of that one last minute in the quarter, Thornton and Lanete had emptied all their cylinders in bombarding a TNT squad that had run out of breath from three quarters of intense play. The Texters led by a mere six points entering the final quarter, 67-61.
The two squads recommenced their game of cat and mouse as the fourth quarter unfolded, with the Tropang Texters’ gunners still trying to break out of the previous period’s cold spell, and NLEX still sending the ball to Thornton and Lanete in order to do some damage. After trailing by double-digits early in the period, the two NLEX heroes got some much-needed help from Simon Enciso, who spurred the late run that trimmed the gap to a mere three points, 78-81, with just around two minutes left on the clock.
A tense final two minutes saw both sides miss crucial free throws and baskets, all the while scrambling to make a stop once the ball changed possession. Following another wasted opportunity by the NLEX side, the Tropang Texters managed to hold on to a four-point lead as they gained one last possession with ten seconds left to Rookie Rosario sealed the deal with a split free throw charity.
Jai Reyes was named Best Player of the Game. He had 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Import David Simon led the scoring with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Al Thornton and Garvo Lanete, the Road Warriors’ two lone bright spots on the stats sheet, had 35 and 20 points respectively. Thornton brought down 16 boards.
Apparent on the stats sheet was TNT’s inside dominance. They out-rebounded NLEX 56-43, and allowed them only 16 points in the paint, with only 2 points from second chances. The Tropa themselves had 42 points in the paint with 20 second chance points.
The Tropang TNT (3-4) will take on the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Monday, March 21 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. NLEX (3-4) look to bounce back against the Globalport Batang Pier on Friday, April 1 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
TNT (85) – Simon 23, Carey 11, Reyes J. 11, De Ocampo 9, Rosser 9, Rosario 8, Ababou 6, Tautuaa 4, Williams 4, Fonacier 0, Reyes R. 0.
NLEX (80) – Thornton 35, Lanete 20, Anthony 7, Enciso 7, E. Villanueva 5, Alas 3, Taulava 3, Arboleda 0, Khobuntin 0, Reyes 0, J Villanueva 0.
Quarterscores: 34-15; 54-35; 67-61; 85-80.