|Troy Rosario led TNT's balanced attack. PBA Media Bureau|
By Dugout Philippines
QUEZON CITY--The TNT KaTropa Texters won't let themselves down, producing a dynamic offensive display to salvage the last PBA Philippine Cup playoff berth with a 118-97 rout of the Phoenix Fuel Masters in a knockout setto at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
The Texters played with energy and purpose, and spilled the Fuel Masters to set up a quarterfinals matchup with three-time all-Filipino defending champs San Miguel Beermen.
In the same tourney last season, TNT and SMB figured in a best-of-seven semifinal series that went the full distance.
The two teams engage in an early playoff rematch this conference, with the Beermen enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage as the playoff top seeds.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria was a keen observer at the Big Dome as the Texters hurdled the Fuel Masters to keep their consistent playoff stints under coach Nash Racela.
Austria and his troops take their first of two cracks at the Final Four Tuesday at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
Ahead by just five, 54-49, at the turn, the Texters unleashed a 16-3 opening salvo in the second half to break away from which the Fuel Masters failed to recover from.
"Buhay pa. yun lang yon. At this point of this conference, all you want is a day to live," said Racela.
"And we have a day to prepare against San Miguel. It is what it is. Importante buhay kami. As long you're alive, there's the chance," Racela added.
As RR Pogoy nailed his first three-pointer in the match, the Texters opened a huge 20-point spread at 75-55 and coasted to the victory to keep Phoenix out of the playoff picture for the second straight conference.
The Fuel Masters ended up as ninth placers in their first tourney under coach Louie Alas.
The Texters, meanwhile, made it to their seventh straight playoffs, 12th in the last 13 conferences and 22nd in the last 24 confabs.
Troy Rosario sizzled with a hot 4-of-7 three-point shooting and produced 18 points in all in leading the Texters' charge in the first half.
Matthew Wright and Doug Kramer made 14 and 10 points, respectively, as the Fuel Masters fought the Texters through 16 lead changes and five deadlocks in the first two quarters.
But the Fuel Masters crumbled under the weight of the Texters' strong third-quarter start.
With a big lead at the end of the third, Racela opted to rest his key players obviously as part of his preparation for San Miguel.
"We need all the help that we can get," said Racela.
TALK N' TEXT 118 - Rosario 18, Cruz 17, Castro 17, Pogoy 15, Semerad 12, Williams 11, Tautuaa 10, Reyes 5, Tamsi 4, Garcia 4, Paredes 3, Nuyles 2, Golla 0, Carey 0, Torres 0.
PHOENIX 97 - Wright 18, Kramer 16, Alolino 13, Jazul 11, Perkins 10, Chan 9, Mendoza 7, Eriobu 5, Intal 4, Wilson 2, Guevarra 2, Dehesa 0, Cortes 0, Gamboa 0.
Quarterscores: 27-25, 54-49, 94-76, 118-97.
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