ANTIPOLO -- KJ McDaniels delivered when it mattered the most and carried TNT KaTropa past the San Miguel Beermen 114-109 Wednesday to secure the last twice-to-beat incentive in the 2019 Governors' Cup quarterfinals at the Ynares Center.
McDaniels scored 18 of TNT's 27 points in the fourth quarter and ended up with 44 points to go with his 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks and 2 steals, helping the KaTropa break out of a three-game slump to avoid falling out of the top-four picture in the first round of the playoffs.
San Miguel played the game without Arwind Santos, Kelly Nabong, and Ronald Tubid. The team suspended Santos, Nabong, and Tubid following a Nov. 17 incident at practice.
After San Miguel crawled back from a 17-point deficit to take a 108-107 lead courtesy of a John Holland trey with 49 seconds left, McDaniels provided a booming counter by hitting a three of his own from the right wing in the ensuing possession to give TNT back the lead. June Mar Fajardo later split his free throws in the final 17 seconds and muffed an open putback that would have given SMB the lead. This led to two McDaniels free throws in the other end to give the KaTropa a three-point cushion with 11 ticks left.
McDaniels came up with another huge play after a Beermen timeout and blocked a Holland triple from the top of the key that would have tied things up in the clutch. Ryan Reyes then sank two freebies from the line to seal it for TNT.
"Wow. As expected, how big of a game for us. We came from three straight losses, so this game was really important for us," coach Bong Ravena said. "San Miguel, they really, really made it hard for us to get this win. We're just happy that we won."
That final minute wasn't the only instance that McDaniels came up big. Faced with a 12-point deficit, 96-84, at the eight-minute mark, SMB unleashed an 11-0 flurry to come within striking distance of the KaTropa but was stopped in its tracks by McDaniels, who buried two straight triples in a 9-0 run to restore order.
A returning Jayson Castro gave TNT a seven-point cushion, 107-100, with three minutes left, but Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross hit five straight to set the stage for that Holland three down the wire.
"It was a thrilling game. You know, we were excited coming in, especially after those three losses," McDaniels said. "We were just practicing, watching the film and we came out with the right energy enough to win. And they're a good team, so we just wanted to come out with the right energy and just play our hearts to win."
The KaTropa will finish with an 8-3 record and have officially clinched the third seed, which will put them on a collision course with the sixth-seeded Magnolia Hotshots in the first round. San Miguel, meanwhile, fell to no. 5 and will face Barangay Ginebra on a twice-to-win disadvantage.
"We lost to (Magnolia in the elimination round), but we'll prepare. We have to be ready also because they're an organized team. We can't downplay them because they blew us out," Ravena said of TNT's match-up against the Hotshots.
Troy Rosario added 30 points on 7-for-12 shooting from deep along with 10 boards, while Roger Pogoy added 17 markers and 7 caroms. Castro flirted with a triple-double (12 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds) in his return from a right calf strain that sidelined him for the last three weeks.
SMB drew a 25-point, 11-rebound from double-double in the loss from Holland. Terrence Romeo added 18 markers, while Ross and Lassiter tossed 16 apiece.
Game 1 of TNT's quarterfinals clash against Magnolia will happen on Monday, Nov 25 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. On the same day, NLEX will look to dispatch NorthPort with its twice-to-beat advantage.
San Miguel, on the other hand, will look to overcome the disadvantage against Ginebra on Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Meralco and Alaska will also battle it out in the first game there.
TNT 114 - McDaniels 44, Rosario 30, Pogoy 17, Castro 12; Reyes 5, Parks 4, Washington 2, Williams 0, Digregorio 0, De Leon 0.
San Miguel 109 - Holland 25, Romeo 18, Ross 16, Lassiter 16, Fajardo 13, Cabagnot 12, Tautuaa 8, Rosser 1, Pessumal 0.
Quarters: 37-25, 53-46, 87-77, 114-109.
TNT shot a blistering 14-for-34 (41.2 percent) mark from deep.
SMB only held the lead for 11 seconds, which was after that Holland trey in the final minute.