TNT made sure there won’t be any collapse this time and got back at Barangay Ginebra San Miguel with an 88-67 victory and reduced the latter’s lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals to 2-1 Friday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Getting significant contributions from its main cogs, the Tropang Giga bucked the absence of Best Player of the Conference frontrunner Ray Parks Jr. for the second straight game by countering every Kings rally in the second half to finally score a victory in the best-of-seven series.
RR Pogoy, TNT’s most consistent performer in the Finals, scored 18 points but the win would not have been possible without Troy Rosario and team captain Jayson Castro.
Rosario, whose production has been a rollercoaster since the latter portion of the eliminations, produced 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting with three rebounds on two blocks and Castro put up 15 points and 10 assists while shooting 6-of-11 after a combined 9-of-27 in Games 1 and 2.
Poy Erram had series highs of 12 points and 14 rebounds, Simon Enciso scored 14 points and veteran Jay Washington chipped in nine points and six rebounds.
The Tropang Giga finally sustained the lead till the end, something they failed to pull off in the previous two games that enabled the Kings to pull off an escape act both times.
There were signs of another letup by TNT, which led 49-34 early in the third until Ginebra answered on a 20-7 run to pull within two 56-54 behind Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and LA Tenorio.
But TNT responded with a 10-2 windup to end the period ahead, 66-56, highlighted by back-to-back threes by Washington and Castro. The fourth quarter saw the Tropang Giga widening the gap, erasing any miraculous bid by the Kings to steal another game.
“We really had to win this very-important game for us, or else baka ma-sweep kami,” said coach Bong Ravena as TNT now shifts its focus on attempting to make it two in a row and level the Finals on Sunday inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
LA Tenorio had 19 points spiked by five triples with six assists in his best game of the championship series, but Ginebra couldn’t pull off another victory that would have put TNT on a 0-3 hole.
Aguilar had 15 points and nine rebounds but Stanley Pringle was held to just 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting after averaging 29.0 points on 18-of-40 clip. Game 2 hero Scottie Thompson had eight points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Tenorio scored 12 points in the first on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting from three-point land, ending with a steal off Castro and a triple for a 26-21 Ginebra lead.
TNT, however, began the second with 11 straight points, seven of which coming from Pogoy. Rosario, Erram and Enciso got into the act to maintain the lead before Castro got a measure of revenge on Tenorio with a steal and a layup to go into halftime ahead 44-34.
TNT 88 — Pogoy 18, Rosario 15, Castro 15, Enciso 14, Erram 12, Washington 9, Reyes 5, De Leon 0, Semerad 0, Montalbo 0, Vosotros 0, Flores 0.
GINEBRA 67 — Tenorio 19, Aguilar 15, Pringle 11, Mariano 8, Thompson 8, De la Cruz 3, Dillinger 2, Caperal 0, Chan 1, Devance 0, Balanza 0, Tolentino 0.
Quarters: 21-26, 44-34, 66-56, 88-67.