Just as when the Meralco Bolts thought that they can pick up from where they left off last Wednesday, the TNT Katropa gave them a harsh slap of reality.
The Katropa had to overcome a spirited Bolts side to reign triumphant, 104-96, in another overtime bout to finally complete the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup semifinals picture, Friday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The victory sets up the Katropa with a bout against Justin Brownlee and the crowd darlings Barangay Ginebra San Miguel into the next round, and the best-of-five semifinal series will commence on Sunday, June 11.
“We had turnovers, but sabi namin hanggang ‘di pa tapos, we have a chance,” said TNT head coach Nash Racela on the down-the-wire victory. “Third sila pa lamang. I think it was just in the fourth quarter naka-recover kami.”
Import Joshua Smith was the man of the moment for TNT, posting monster numbers of 31 points on 58 percent shooting alongside 27 rebounds. An aggressive Jayson Castro also punched in 31 markers, 22 in the second half.
TNT went ablaze in the extra period, zooming to an 8-2 run ended by Roger Pogoy’s charities to lead by six, 97-91, with 2:04 to go. But, Reynel Hugnatan nailed a triple to lift Meralco by three, 97-94, 11 seconds later.
That proved to be the Bolts’ last gasp, however. Ranidel De Ocampo and Castro nailed their respective foul shots to widen the gap to seven, 101-94, with 46.6 seconds left, enough to hold off Meralco and secure the win.
Rookie Roger Pogoy also made his presence felt for the Katropa, being the only third player to score in double figures with 13 points on 13 shots.
The Bolts, who once led by as much as 14, 64-50, midway into the third chapter, established another favorable lead late in the final frame, 87-82, as Jared Dillinger nailed his charities perfectly with 2:29 left to play.
TNT though fought back and imposed a serious threat. Castro nailed a trey, and Ryan Reyes followed suit with a corner triple to respond to Baser Amer’s jumper to lift the team in blue by a point, 89-88, with 1:07 to go.
Both squads had chances to convert, but they failed due to errors — with the most glaring one committed by Chris Newsome with 7.1 ticks left as he tried to bounce the ball off Smith’s foot but to no avail as TNT got the possession.
“We told we just wanted to force a turnover so the ball gets back to us and hopefully have a chance sa huli,” said Racela regarding the measly turnover.
Castro was fouled with 5.1 seconds remaining, and had the chance to win it for TNT with his freebies. However, he split his charities, and a missed Dillinger trey prior to the buzzer sent the match to another five minutes.
“Good thing for us they fouled Jayson. Good thing they fouled him and we’re able to force overtime,” added the first-year head coach.
The Bolts’ loss puts in vain another remarkable night from Amer, who poured in 17 of his 25 markers in the first half. The sophomore also collected nine rebounds, fed the ball four times, and racked up three steals.
Dillinger had 20 points spiked by four treys, all in the third canto, for Meralco, while import Alex Stepheson had a better outing compared to Games 1 and 2 with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Both players were fouled out in OT.
Turnovers played a major role in the game, with the Bolts committing 24 that led to 25 points for TNT. The Katropa’s bench also played way better than the Bolts, adding 53 points to their total output.
TNT (104) – Castro 31, Smith 31, Pogoy 13, Reyes 8, De Ocampo 7, Garcia 7, Williams 6, Semerad 1, Rosario 0, Rosales 0, Carey 0, Tautuaa 0.
Meralco (96) – Amer 25, Dillinger 20, Stepheson 15, Hugnatan 12, Newsome 7, Hodge 6, Caram 6, Daquioag 3, Nabong 2, Uyloan 0.
Quarterscores: 29-19, 38-43, 66-73, 89-89, 104-96.