By REYNALD MAGALLON
Don Trollano hit the game-winning jumper with 2.2 seconds left as NLEX frustrated defending champion TNT, 90-89, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo on Thursday, June 16.
Down by one, 89-88, with eight ticks left on the clock, Trollano created enough space off the dribble and nailed the huge elbow jumper over the outstretched arms of Glenn Khobuntin to lift the Road Warriors to their second win in the season.
Kevin Alas also came up huge as he fired 11 of his 16 points in the payoff period to keep the Road Warriors within striking distance after trailing by as much as eight points early in the final frame. He also had seven rebounds and six assists.
Trollano only finished with 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field but hit the shot that mattered the most while Calvin Oftana unloaded a team-high 20 points.
“We expected naman na mahirap ang laban sa TNT, defending champions sila, isa pang nagpahirap sa amin sa preparation, we know that we are well scouted kasi nandun na si coach Jolas and alam ko na alam niya yung system namin inside out,” said coach Yeng Guiao after the game.
“Mahirap kalaban yung TNT, kasi basically yung tradition nila, yung culture nila, yung mga old reliables, di mo maalis sa kanila yung crunch time, the can take over, si Jayson and si RR,” he added.
NLEX’s victory spoiled the party for RR Pogoy who celebrated his birthday with a huge 26-point output built on four triples.
Meantime, Meralco used a huge fourth quarter assault to zap Converge, 90-74, and join early leaders in the standings.
The Bolts pulled away early in the final frame as Aaron Black, Allein Maliksi and Chris Newsome shot the lights out and powered the team’s back-breaking 23-7 blast to open the payoff period and pick up their second win in as many games.
Black exploded with career-high tying 25 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc while Maliksi fired 22 points, built on five triples. Newsome also provided support with 19 markers.
More than the offensive explosion, Bolts head coach Norman Black said the team’s defense and rebounding proved to be the difference in the game.
“The key to beating this team today was to do a good job with the rebounds. We came to this game and we understand that they averaged 57 rebounds a game. We don’t want to be in a situation where you play good defense but you cannot get the rebounds so we wanted to finish off our defensive possessions with a rebound,” said Black.
With the Bolts holding on to a slim 65-62 lead early in the payoff period, Maliksi triggered the telling run with a long bomb before Black scored again on a floater.
Meralco’s defense then smothered Converge, forcing it to turnovers and bad shots as the twin towers of Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge outplayed their younger counterparts in Justin Arana and Jeo Ambohot in the rebounding department.
Both Almazan and Hodge failed to break into the double-digits in scoring but collared 15 and 10 boards respectively, allowing the Bolts to further pad the lead which went as high as 20 points, 87-67, after a Black triple halfway through the final frame.
Converge managed to keep in step with Meralco in the first two quarters behind its outside sniping led by Taylor Browne who paced the FiberXers with 14 points.
The crew, however, lost steam in the second half as it absorbed its first lopsided defeat in the franchise after two close encounters in its first two losses for a 1-3 record.
NLEX 90 – Oftana 20, Quinahan 18, Alas 16, Trollano 11, Rosales 8, Magat 5, Ighalo 4, Miranda 2, Soyud 2, Varilla 2, Semerad 2, Chua 0.
TNT 89 – Pogoy 28, Erram 11, Rosario 11, K. Williams 11, Castro 8, Khobuntin 5, Heruela 5, Alejandro 4, Cruz 2, Reyes 2, Tungcab 2, Marcelo 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0, Banal 0.
MERALCO 90 – Black 25, Maliksi 22, Newsome 19, Hodge 6, Hugnatan 6, Almazan 5, Jose 4, Quinto 3, Banchero 0, Caram 0, Pasaol 0, Pascual 0, Baclao 0.
CONVERGE 74 – Browne 14, Ambohot 10, Teng 8, Adamos 7, DiGregorio 6, Racal 6, Ahanmisi 5, Arana 4, Lojera 4, Murrel 3, Tolomia 2, Hill 2, Stockton 2, Ilagan 1, Bulanadi 0.