The TNT Katropa had to survive a late-game rally by the wily NLEX Road Warriors to come out as winners, 112-107, and book a spot in the 2017 Governor’s Cup playoffs, Wednesday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
This marks the first game of TNT in the post-Ranidel De Ocampo era, as they had traded their long-time forward to the Meralco Bolts through a three-team trade last Monday. De Ocampo was with TNT for nine long years.
The Katropa, who have become the fourth team behind NLEX, Barangay Ginebra, and Meralco Bolts that will head into the quarterfinals, improved their card to 6-3. The Road Warriors, meanwhile, dropped to 7-3.
“That was a hard-fought win,” opined TNT head coach Nash Racela. “It’s good that we were able to play together today. We struggled a bit offensively, but at least we were able to organize ourselves in the end-game.”
Glen Rice, Jr. topped the charts for TNT with 25 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks, and 10 assists, but his numbers were negated by nine turnovers. Kelly Williams had 19 markers and eight boards, while Troy Rosario made 17 and 12.
Trailing behind most of the match, the Road Warriors, from a 90-96 deficit with 6:41 to go in the payoff period, managed to crawl back and send the game into a deadlock at 101 after Kevin Alas’ lay-up with 3:32 remaining.
Though the Katropa responded with six straight points, but their counterparts simply would not be denied, as they unfurled a second wind and closed within a point, 106-107, after Alex Mallari’s trey with 1:25 to go.
That, however, was NLEX’s last gasp. Jayson Castro pulled up from the outside, responding to Mallari’s shot to deliver the deadly dagger and extend their lead to four, 110-106, with a minute and nine seconds left to play.
Williams then sank two of his four freebies in the final 20 seconds to seal the deal.
Castro supplied 13 markers, five boards, and seven dimes for TNT. Anthony Semerad produced 10.
Import Aaron Fuller led NLEX and all scorers with 28 points to go with 18 rebounds. Mallari filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, nine caroms, and five dimes, while Larry Fonacier made 10 markers off the bench.
Both teams shot an identical 41 percent from the foul line and also made 10 triples each. TNT had more rebounds, 60-54, and assists, 28-24, however, but the bench play showed great disparity in favor of NLEX, 49-28.
The Katropa’s new acquisitions in Norbert Torres and Justin Chua did not play in tonight’s game.
Both squads will have the Star Hotshots as their next opponent. TNT will face them first this Sunday, September 17, 6:45 PM still at the same venue, while NLEX will play them on September 24, Sunday 6:45 PM at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
TNT 112 – Rice Jr. 25, Williams 19, Rosario 17, Castro 13, Tautuaa 12, Semerad 10, Reyes 8, Pogoy 6, Carey 2, Nuyles 0.
NLEX 107 – Fuller 28, Mallari 19, Fonacier 10, Alas 9, Baguio 7, Lastimosa 7, Al-Hussaini 6, Tiongson 5, Soyud 5, Quinahan 5, Rios 2, Ighalo 2, Taulava 2, J. Villanueva 0.
Quarterscores: 25-20, 50-46, 83-77, 112-107.