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TNT braves through main men's send-off, survives Converge in OT thriller

Jayson Castro was splendid off the bench for TNT. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga--Jewel Ponferada and Brian Heruela played as unlikely heroes for TNT as they bucked off losing the returning Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Calvin Oftana in the second half and held off Converge in overtime, 101-98, in their PBA Commissioner's Cup game on Saturday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

In a game that saw Hollis-Jefferson, who was reactivated after recovering from gastroenteritis, getting ejected early in the third quarter and Oftana fouling out, Ponferada and Heruela made up all the Tropang Giga's points in the overtime period as they bounced back from their opening night loss to the Magnolia Hotshots.

After both teams went two minutes without a score to open extra time, Ponferada broke the ice after converting on a Heruela feed to give TNT a 97-95 lead.

Ponferada, however, made a crucial error in the next play after he fouled Kevin Racal while taking a corner three.

Racal, though, only made 1-of-3 free throws, and Heruela broke loose for a layup to give the Tropang Giga a 99-96 lead.

Jerrick Balanza kept the FiberXers in the game with a jumper with 54 seconds left, but Jayson Castro found Ponferada open on the drop pass for the 101-98 Tropang Giga cushion with 16 seconds remaining.

Mac Tallo and Tom Vodanovich had chances to force a second overtime, but they missed their three-point attempts before time ran out.

Castro finished with 23 points, eight rebounds, and four assists off the bench for a vintage game to lead TNT, which is now at 1-1.

Oftana added 19 points, five rebounds, one steal, and one block, while in his first PBA game back since leading Jordan to a silver medal in the Asian Games, Hollis-Jefferson finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block.

Glenn Khobuntin also had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds with three assists, three steals, and one block.

Vodanovich had 25 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one block, and two steals to lead Converge, which failed to complete a comeback from 18 points down and dropped to 0-2.

The Scores:

TNT 101 – Castro 23, Oftana 19, Hollis-Jefferson 14, Ponferrada 12, Khobuntin 10, K. Williams 7, Heruel 5, Tolomia 4, Reyes 3, Galinato 2, Cruz 1, Tungcab 0

CONVERGE 98 – Vodanovich 25, Balanza 18, Arana 12, Racal 10, Tallo 9, Winston 8, Nieto 6, Stockton 6, Melecio 4, Fornilos 0, Wong 0, Maagdenberg 0, Santos 0

QUARTERS: 28-22, 56-39, 74-64, 95-95, 101-98

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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