TNT boosted its chances of a top two finish by extending the struggles of defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 88-67, Sunday, Sept. 12 in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Tropang Giga took control of the rematch of the title series from last year’s bubble late in the first quarter onwards to register a league-best 8-1 record, putting themselves in a good position to gain a twice-to-beat advantage given to teams ranked first and second after the eliminations.
Rookie guard Mikey Williams hit 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting with four rebounds and two assists while Jayson Castro came off the bench to produce 14 points, four rebounds and five assists after limited productions against San Miguel Beer and NLEX.
RR Pogoy had another all-around showing for the Tropang Giga with 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and five steals.
A listless afternoon sent Ginebra to its second straight loss, keeping the titleholders out of the playoff picture with a 3-5 record for ninth place.
“We know how clinical and precise they run the triangle and how patient they are,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes. “That was one thing and we had to make sure that we’re able to contain their twin towers and twin guards.
“That’s the difficult thing about Ginebra and we just wanted to make sure we wanted to contain their offense,” he added.
A 9-2 run to end the first quarter courtesy of five from Williams gave the Tropang Giga a 20-16 lead before Castro scored the team’s first 10 points of the second period, prompting Gin Kings coach Tim Cone to call a timeout twice after the lead ballooned to 28-18 during the stretch.
TNT went into halftime up 45-32 and held a 16-point lead in the third when Ginebra was able to find ways to try a comeback despite its struggles and closed to within eight twice, the last at 60-52.
But Castro stole the ball from Kent Salado and converted an easy layup at the other end to make it 62-52 lead going in the fourth. Ginebra never made a serious threat in the payoff period as TNT led by as a high of 24.
Japeth Aguilar finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five blocks for Ginebra, but chief playmaker LA Tenorio was held scoreless after missing all 13 attempts in 38 minutes.
TNT 88 — Williams M. 27, Rosario 14, Castro 14, Pogoy 13, Williams W. 7, Montalbo 5, Marcelo 4, Erram 2, Exciminiano 2, Alejandro 0, Heruela 0, Reyes 0, Javier 0, Mendoza 0.
GINEBRA 67 — Aguilar J. 18, Standhardinger 14, Thompson 13, Pringle 12, Mariano 6, Caperal 2, Tenorio 0, Dillinger 0, Salado 0, Tolentino 0, Enriquez 0, Aguilar R. 0, Devance 0, Ayaay 0
Quarters: 20-16, 45-32, 62-52, 88-67.