TNT boosts playoff bid
TROPANG TNT peeled away from Barangay Ginebra in the fourth quarter and cruised to a 107-92 victory that enhanced the Texters’ playoff hopes and knocked the Gin Kings out of the running for a top two berth in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
David Simon scored 12 points and three locals combined for 16 more in the fourth as the Texters buried the Kings with an avalanche of baskets from inside and out to rise to 5-4 and tie their victims.
Othyus Jeffers paced the Kings with 29 but Ginebra’s guns went silent in the final 12 minutes where the Kings made just 19 points and allowed the Texters to break free from a 73-all tie at the end of the third.
“Any win is sweet, more so because we need it like they did,” TNT coach Jong Uichico told reporters. “We were just able to play better in the stretch – make stops, make shots. It was won in the fourth quarter.”
Phoenix Petroleum survived a great test of character in the first game to plod on, nipping Blackwater in the highest scoring game of the season that had some strange endgame twists.
The Fuel Masters pounded out a 124-120 overtime victory over the Elite, who couldn’t recover after bungling a golden chance to win it all with nine-tenths of a second left in regulation when Carlo Lastimosa was at the free throw line for a potential four-point play.
It was just the third win in eight games for the Fuel Masters, who would need to win at least two of their last three games – by coach Koy Banal’s estimation – to have a chance to make it past the elimination round.
“That (win) brought our character to the next level,” Banal told reporters. “A do-or-die game going to extension does that to the players. I love the pride of my players.”
Mac Baracael and import Kevin Pinkney scored 21 points each and four more locals tossed in twin digits for the Fuel Masters, who blew a 16-point lead early in the third period and 13 in the fourth to be dragged into the tight endgame.
And while Banal talked about being proud of his players, Blackwater counterpart Leo Isaac, according to very reliable sources, harped a different tune inside the Elite locker room after the game.
The loss was galling for the Elite, who dropped out of contention with their fourth straight setback in a 3-7 card. And Isaac did not take this one sitting down.
“Look, I know my basketball,” Isaac was quoted by several sources as saying while addressing his players. “There’s a good side and a bad side and I just hope that you are not on the bad side.”
The team insiders said that Isaac referred to no one in particular, but the former Ginebra San Miguel guard was obviously referring to the Lastimosa free throw near the end of regulation.
Phoenix had a 109-106 lead with under four seconds left only for Lastimosa to get fouled by RR Garcia in making a three-pointer going into the final nine-tenths of a second.
After that play, and with Lastimosa to be given a bonus free throw that could win the game, the off-guard was telling coaching staff that his right hand was hurting. An assistant, also according to the source, offered to pull him out on account of an injury but refused.
He then threw up a free throw that had no chance of connecting. The pain was not there in extension as Lastimosa went on to fire seven more points and finish with 28 to lead all Blackwater shooters.
The incident obviously angered Blackwater Dioceldo Sy that he left immediately after the game and did not join his players and coaching staff in the dugout.
PHOENIX FUEL 124—Baracael 21, Pinkney 21, Intal 19, Garcia 18, Wilson 16, Urbiztondo12, Pennisi 6, Brondial 4, Monfort 4, Lanete 3.
BLACKWATER 120—Lastimosa 28, Dela Cruz 21, Erram 18, Rhett 18, Cortez 13, Reyes 10, Cervantes 4, Pascual 4, Gamalinda 2, Vosotros 2, Bulawan 0.
Quarters: 20-23, 57-43,88-77, 109-109 (reg.), 124-120 (OT)
TROPANG TNT 107—Simon 30, Rosario 22, Tautuaa 12, Castro 10, De Ocampo 8, Rosser 8, Reyes R. 6, Williams 4, Reyes J. 3, Ababou 2, Carey 2.
BRGY. GINEBRA 92—Jeffers 29, Aguilar 12, Slaughter 12, Ellis 10, Mercado 7, Devance 6, Caguioa 5, Tenorio 5, Marcelo 4, Thompson 2, Mariano 0.
Quarters: 23-20, 46-47, 73-73, 107-92