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Pogoy goes berserk, Smith hits game winner as TNT nips SMB in Finals opener

TNT Big Man Joshua Smith came up Jumbo in the clutch as Katropa drew first blood in the Commissioner's Cup Finals.
By Patrick Sutare

QUEZON CITY -- No injury could stop Joshua Smith from taking the helm and hitting a game-winning basket in a Finals game.

Despite playing less than a hundred percent, the hefty TNT import was unrattled in the game's waning seconds, saving the KaTropa with a clutch inside basket with 1.6 seconds left to stun San Miguel, 104-102, in Game One of the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In a crucial heads up play, the 6-foot-9, 195-pound Smith found an opportunity to take Junemar Fajardo one-on-one with 7.6 ticks to go. He forced the issue and drilled a still well-contested attempt to stamp the win which also preserved an explosion from Roger Pogoy in the fourth quarter.

The rookie out of the Far Eastern University played like a seasoned veteran as he was responsible for keeping the KaTropa's head above water in the early goings of the deciding period.

He fired three triples and hoisted 13 points in the said quarter alone to finish with a team high 27 markers along with five rebounds, an assist and three steals.

"What I got from Roger today were the things I got from him all season long," said TNT coach Nash Racela who was hardly surprised the freshman accounted for huge numbers in his first PBA Finals game.

TNT had the chance to blow past the more favored SMB with over seven minutes to go in the game after Pogoy scored on a put-back to push the KaTropa's lead to 10, 93-83.

But the Beermen quickly shrugged off the impending romp, channelling their championship poise to mount an uprising come crunch time.

With still 2:53 remaining, SMB was just down by a deuce, 98-96, before Alex Cabagnot nailed a pull-up jumper to cap a 9-0 blast and tie the game at 98 approaching the last two minutes.

Smith and Rhodes would trade split charities on the ensuing plays as the game went down to the final minute.

After forcing a stop, the KaTropa found Jayson Castro wide open from the left corner who then knocked down a huge three to give TNT a three-point cushion with 44.7 seconds to go, 102-99.

Rhodes then split another pair before SMB dodged a bullet as Pogoy's wide open three-point attempt went off the mark, 17.1 seconds remaining.

Chris Ross drove hard and drew a foul before sinking two cold-blooded free throws to tie the game at 102.

But the late surge went for naught as Smith's game-winner denied the Beermen from stealing the series opener.

The behemoth KaTropa reinforcement wound up 21 points, nine rebounds and two assists in just 26 minutes off the bench as he is still on a day-to-day status as confirmed by Racela due to his foot injury.

Castro came out a rebound shy of a triple-double after tallying 14 points and 10 assists and nine boards. RR Garcia and Troy Rosario added 13 and 10, respectively.

San Miguel was paced by Rhodes who got off playing like a one man wrecking crew after scattering 21 points in the first period.

Playing in his first pro career championship game, the SMB import's scorching start was however negated as he struggled in the succeeding quarters after being plagued by early foul trouble.

He would still finish with 31 points, but it was not until he broke the spell after firing blanks in the second and third quarters.

Fajardo posted a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds while Cabagnot scattered 16 points and nine boards. Ross had his own double-double, scoring 11 points while while dishing out 12 dimes in a losing cause.

The Beermen will shoot revenge to tie the series anew on Friday still at the Big Dome.

Box Scores:

TNT 104 - Pogoy 27, Smith 21, Castro 14, Garcia 13, Rosario 10, Tautuaa 7, Semerad 5, Williams 5, Rosales 2, Golla 0, Carey 0, Nuyles 0

San Miguel 102 - Rhodes 31, Fajardo 18, Cabagnot 16, Ross 11, Santos 11, Lassiter 8, De Ocampo 6, Espinas 1, Tubid 0

Quarterscores: 24-31, 56-51, 75-73, 104-102

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