League-leading TNT stopped NorthPort’s winning streak at three and clinched a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals after prevailing, 102-92, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Mikey Williams continued his impressive rookie campaign but his performance may have been overshadowed by the major presence of backcourt mate Kib Montalbo on both ends as the Tropang Giga pulled away in the second half to register their ninth win in 10 games.
The victory also assured TNT the top seed in the quarterfinals.
Williams put up 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting while Montalbo scored a career-high 22 points with five rebounds and three steals, apart from his intangibles that were not seen on the statsheet.
Montalbo along with the rest of the TNT defense limited Cignal Play PBA Press Corps Player of the Week Robert Bolick to just 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting.
Troy Rosario scored 18 points including six in the fourth quarter that kept TNT afloat when NorthPort tried to make a serious comeback bid.
The Batang Pier fell to 4-4, spoiling the return of coach Pido Jarencio and his staff after missing the previous three games due to COVID-19 protocols.
“I thought we caught a break because NorthPort was playing very, very good basketball. But the fact that Greg (Slaughter) and Sean Anthony were out, I thought that was big for us,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes.
Slaughter was out for a second straight game due to a bacterial infection while Anthony was dealing with bone spurs.
But TNT had overcome a 32-22 deficit in the second quarter and even took a 42-41 lead at the half when Williams drained a three from the right elbow.
The floodgates opened in the third as Williams scored 11 while Montalbo had 10 as TNT went on to lead by a high of 12 twice, the last at 76-64 going into the fourth on Jayson Castro’s three that bounced off the rim.
NorthPort got to within five, 76-71, after seven straight points but TNT quickly responded with Williams and Montalbo knocking down outside shots and Rosario scoring twice underneath for 94-80 with over four minutes in the game.
TNT 102 — Williams M. 29, Montalbo 22, Rosario 18, Williams K. 11, Castro 9, Reyes 6, Heruela 4, Pogoy 3, Erram 0, Marcelo 0, Mendoza 0, Alejandro 0.
NORTHPORT 92 — Taha 20, Ferrer 17, Malonzo 15, Bolick 12, Grey 10, Onwubere 8, Balanza 4, Lanete 4, Elorde 1, Rike 0.
Quarters: 19-22, 42-41, 76-64, 102-92.