TNT pulled away late in the final frame to hand Meralco its first taste of defeat, 78-71, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo on Saturday, June 18.
RR Pogoy led the win with 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting, with eight turnovers, while Troy Rosario scored 16 for the Tropang Giga. Poy Erram also provided support with 16 and 11 points respectively as star guard Jayson Castro strained his calf in the second half.
Timely hits from Brian Heruela, JJ Alejandro and RR Pogoy allowed the Tropang Giga to create the much-needed separation inside the final five minutes of its defense-oriented showdown against the Bolts to bounce back from their narrow 80-79 defeat at the hands of the NLEX Road Warriors last Thursday.
“I was very pleased with our defense, I thought even in the first half. If you take away our turnovers, our defense really held firm. Unfortunately there are a lot of live ball turnovers that resulted in 14 or 12 Meralco points,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes.
“That’s what we talked about at half time, to cut down the turnovers to give us a chance to win and I think we did a better job in the second half to take care of the ball and not give Meralco a chance to score off those turnovers,” he added.
Allein Maliksi carried the fight with 22 points for the Bolts who were without Aaron Black who exploded for 25 points in its 90-74 domination of Converge last Thursday.
Despite his absence, Meralco hung tough for the majority of the match and had the legitimate chance to seize the victory if not for an 8-0 spurt unloaded by TNT down the stretch.
Heruela and Alejandro nailed back-to-back triples before Pogoy scored on a tough layup, breaking a 65-all deadlock for an eight-point cushion with 2:27 to go. Off a 65-all tie midway through the fourth quarter, TNT set the tone with a pivotal 8-0 run, sparked bu consecutive long bombs from Brian Heruela and JJay Alejandro, and capped by a Pogoy layup with 2:27 left in a regulation.
Meralco tried to mount a comeback behind Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan bucket with 1:25 left before the Tropang Giga controlled the endgame on defensive to waste the clock, simply had answers to keep them at bay until the final buzzer, and seal the deal
With the win, TNT improved to a 3-2 record in the standings while Meralco sank to a 2-1 win-loss slate.
• TNT 78 – Pogoy 19, Rosario 16, Erram 13, Castro 10, Alejandro 8, Heruela 5, Khobuntin 3, K. Williams 2, Marcelo 2, Cruz 0, Reyes 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0, Banal 0.
• Meralco 71 – Maliksi 20, Newsome 13, Quinto 13, Banchero 12, Hodge 6, Almazan 5, Hugnatan 2, Caram 0, Pasaol 0, Jose 0, Pascual 0, Baclao 0.
16-19; 31-32; 57-54; 78-71