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TNT defies dismal first half, rallies past Blackwater for bounce back win

RR Pogoy spoiled Blackwater's giant slaying bid. PBA Media Bureau

By Patrick Sutare

QUEZON CITY--At first, it appeared that another giant was about to go down into the hands of the now upgraded Blackwater.

But TNT refused to reward the Elite with another tournament-announcing stunner as it battled back from being down double digits in the first half and sent the latter crashing back to earth with a 92-83 win on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in the PBA Philippine Cup.

RR Pogoy spearheaded the charge for the Ka-Tropa, scoring 24 points, along with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Jayson Castro accounted for 17 markers, five boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Making up for its poor outside shooting during the first 24 minutes of play where they shot two of 16 from deep, TNT relied on its defense after the break and got to run off forced turnovers to get easy transition baskets.

It was a 29-8 disparity on fast break points for the Ka-Tropa after the game.

The victory keeps TNT the lone team in the league whom Blackwater has never beaten in its more than three-year history. The record stands at 10-0.

“I’m not looking to that day na matalo nila kami,” said TNT head coach Racela in jest.

Oozing with confidence following huge victories against ROS and the stacked Barangay Ginebra, Blackwater looked like a real contender -if they aren’t already- in its stance against the more experienced Ka-Tropa.

The Elite launched an onslaught in the first half, more particularly in the second frame, to create a sizeable distance of as much as 10 points before leading by seven at halftime, 43-36.

But Racela quickly unraveled the looming trouble as he fielded in Kelly Williams to start the third canto who then became the spark plug of the comeback with his defensive plays against the Elite’s young but formidable front court of JP Erram, Raymar Jose and even Mac Belo.

Despite the successful move, the young TNT mentor still owned up to the deficit his team suffered early on.

“I messed up my rotation in the first half,” he said.

According to him, Williams never saw action during the first two quarters after the former league MVP got stuck in traffic that was caused by a fire along the C-5 road.

With Castro and Pogoy taking turns in putting up the points of the rally, the Ka-Tropa was able to outscore Blackwater in the third, 29-14, to lead by eight heading to fourth, 65-57, before banking on momentum to keep the Elite at bay and get the job done.

After the Ka-Tropa’s lead then went to as high as 17 came under seige with 1:04 left in fourth, 85-79, Castro came to the rescue and score on an and-1 play to put the game out of reach.

The come from behind win saved TNT from falling to a 1-3 hole as it succumbed to defending champs San Miguel last Saturday in Iloilo.

The team is instead back to .500 while dragging Blackwater to the same record of 2-2 to join a logjam in the standings with Alaska, NLEX and Phoenix.

Only two guys broke into double figures for the Elite with Erram in front with 20 points on top of eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks in 36 minutes. Mike Cortez was the other player as he tallied 14 points along with five boards and three assists.

It was a struggle all game offensively for the second-year forward Belo who was limited to just nine points and shot a subpar 22 percent from the field, although he grabbed 13 rebounds.

The scores:

TNT 92 - Pogoy 24, Castro 17, Garcia 12, Semerad 11, Rosario 9, Williams 6, Tautuaa 6, Torres 5, Reyes 2, Golla 0, Carey 0, Golla 0.

BLACKWATER 83 - Erram 20, Cortez 14, Digregorio 9, Belo 9, Maliksi 9, Jose 7, Sumang 5, Marcelo 4, Sena 4, Pinto 2, Cruz 0.

Quarters: 15-16, 36-43, 65-57, 92-83.

Follow him on Twitter: @patricksutare