By: Patrick Sutare
QUEZON CITY- Closing out a series is the hardest of them all, and TNT could attest to such fact on Monday night.
The Ka-Tropa had to survive a series of blown cushions and gritty stands before brushing off a feisty Globalport team, 95-90, in Game Two of their PBA Philippine Cup Quarterfinal series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, booking them a seat to the final four.
A couple of lucky breaks and hustle plays down the stretch spared the fourth-seeded TNT from allowing a deciding sudden-death match against the Batang Pier.
The final tally is not really indicative of how things went early as TNT appeared to have dictated the tempo on the onset of the game.
They led by eight after one, 30-22, and mounted a 20-point advantage, 47-27, with less than five minutes to go in the second frame.
But Globalport would not yield just yet as they finished the half on a 14-1 salvo to come to within seven, 41-48.
Both teams then instigated a tug-of-war, engaging each other with runs and blasts of their own.
TNT, though, still prevailed after three despite an 8-0 surge from Globalport, as they held a nine-point lead going to the payoff period, 76-67.
The Batang Pier would then extend their smoking hot grind to launch the fourth, blasting a 11-2 spurt to tie the game at 78 capped by a booming triple from Stanley Pringle, still 9:57 to go.
So the game went down the wire.
Staring at a precarious one-point lead with 43 seconds remaining after JR Quinahan completed an and-1 play, 90-91, veteran forward Kelly Williams hauled and scored crucial second serving off a Roger Pogoy miss to put TNT ahead by three with 19 seconds left.
The ensuing play had them buckled up on defense as they forced Globalport's top gun Terrence Romeo into a turnover.
Ranidel de Ocampo would then calmly sink a pair to seal the deal for the Ka-Tropa, marking their return to the semis.
They are set to face topseeded and defending champs San Miguel Beermen in an exciting best-of-seven clash.
De Ocampo was named best player of the game after posting a game-high 25 points on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting and a flawless 10-of-10 from the stripe.
Sophomore forward Mo Tautuaa, who had a solid start for the Ka-Tropa, finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
Falling for the second straight time, the loss marked the Batang Pier's end of the road of the season-opener.
It was a terrible time, meanwhile, to catch a rough shooting night for Globalport's top gun Romeo as he went drilling only five out of 23 shot attempts, including a forgettable three-point output in the second half .
He still top scored his team though with 22 on top of seven rebounds and three assists.
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