New import. New head coach. New look TNT.
The KaTropa played their best game of the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup elimination round with a 110-104 victory against the debuting Rain or Shine Elasto Painters Saturday night in Passi City, Iloilo.
Powered by new import Marqus Blakely who had 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists in the game, TNT overturned a double-digit first half deficit and overcame a late rally from Rain or Shine.
TNT turned things around in the third period as they exploded for 44 points. This rally continued into the final canto where they built their biggest lead at 96-78, off a triple from Troy Rosario.
The Elasto Painters did their best to fight back led by Gabe Norwood and James Yap in the end game but they missed key free throws while TNT was steadier with their own.
Rosario was named the Best Player of the Game with 24 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the three-point range while adding seven rebounds. The tandem of Terrence Romeo and RR Pogoy picked up from where they left off in the game against Columbian. Romeo notched 22 points with five rebounds and five assists while Pogoy finished with 14 points.
It was the debut game of newly-installed TNT head coach Bong Ravena but he also got a lot of help from team consultant Mark Dickel in the contest.
Returning import J'Nathan Bullock led the Elasto Painters with 21 points, five rebounds, and five assists while Yap scored 21 markers off the bench. Rain or Shine did not help themselves by missing 15 free throws in the contest as they only lost by six.
In the first quarter, Rain or Shine did not look rusty at all even if they were out of action for the longest time as they took a 23-18 lead. With TNT's shots not falling from the outside, the Elasto Painters used their size advantage and built their biggest lead with 4:14 remaining, 42-32, after a basket from Norbert Torres.
However, TNT finished the second on a 13-7 run to cut Rain or Shine's lead 49-45 after the first 24 minutes of action. At the half, Blakely led all scorers with 13 points as he shot at perfect 4 of 4 from the field.
The KaTropa took a lot of three-point attempts in the first 24 minutes, taking 28 attempts while only shooting 14 inside the arc.
TNT struggled to keep up with the Elasto Painters in the opening half as coach Caloy Garcia played all of his 15 players with 11 contributing points.
After the game, there was a bit of commotion between the two teams as Garcia did not appreciate TNT's coaching staff calling a timeout with six seconds remaining in the game. Ravena owned up to the decision as he acknowledged it right before the teams shook hands. However, the drama stretched on with Garcia having a prolonged discussion with Dickel until cooler heads prevailed.
TNT 110 - Blakely 26, Rosario 24, Romeo 22, Pogoy 14, Garcia 6, Williams 6, Cruz 5, Carey 4, Trollano 3, Reyes 0, Semerad 0.
Rain or Shine 104 - Bullock 23, Yap 21, Norwood 12, Torres 9, Almazan 8, Belga 6, Ponferada 6, Onwubere 4, Tiu 4, Nambatac 3, Daquioag 3, Maiquez 2, Borboran 2, Casiño 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 45-49, 89-78, 110-104.
It was Blakely's first time not wearing a jersey from the Magnolia franchise. The two-time Governors' Cup champion and former Best Import of the Conference was not signed by the organzation since his three-game stint in the 2015 Commissioner's Cup. The rule in the PBA is that a team loses its rights to an import if they do not sign him up for one whole season.
Jayson Castro did not play in the contest as he's reported to be dealing with bone spurs.
Rain or Shine - September 26 versus Magnolia Hotshots at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
TNT - September 30 versus NorthPort Batang Pier at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum