Don Trollano's body of work for the undermanned TNT KaTropa has been one of the most essential factors for the team's 2-1 series lead against the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals.
Trollano came up big once more on Friday with a career-high 18 points that included three 3s, five rebounds plus a steal in the team's Game 3 win against SMB, a resounding answer after losing in double overtime on Wednesday.
"I just wanted to win," he said. "Game 2 slipped away from our hands, and that game was supposed to be ours for the taking. Our mindset entering this one was to bounce back."
He was also pivotal in the KaTropa's comeback from 17 down by scoring seven in the second period, when TNT exploded with a 24-0 run to turn the game around. Trollano later scored eight more in the fourth as he conspired with RR Pogoy to keep San Miguel at bay.
"We just thought that we had to stay focused, stay composed. We knew we could climb back from that deficit since it was only the first quarter, and we did that in the second," Trollano said.
His offensive outburst is a departure from his usual defensive-minded approach and is a much-needed development for the KaTropa, whose depth has been decimated by injuries to Anthony Semerad and Ryan Reyes.
"I work on my game. The coaches and players trusted me. Tony (Semerad) and Ryan (Reyes) are injured, so I need to step up. I just played my game. For me, my role is on defense. I defend the import. I focused on that. The offense is just a bonus," he said.
Trollano has upped his workload in the finals by averaging 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals on 51 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 shooting on 3s. This is a remarkable increase from the 9.1 points, 5.4 boards and 0.3 steals on 39 percent shooting that he averaged in 11 elimination games.
His hustle on the glass has probably been more important for the undersized KaTropa, though. Of his 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 have come on the offensive glass, where TNT (18.0 per game) holds a sizeable advantage over SMB (13.0). Those boards have also led to a lot of second chance points for the KaTropa, who get 23.0 per game in compared with 16.0 by the Beermen.
Seeing more action on the floor has certainly boosted Trollano's case. He's playing 37.2 minutes per game against San Miguel, a far cry from the 23.5 he averaged before the playoffs.
"Look it's probably me playing him more minutes, to be honest," Dickel said, chuckling. "He's more than capable. I've talked to him just about playing defense, crashing the offensive glass and just allowing the game to come to you. He's got a role now in the team and he's earned it."
"The coaches gave me confidence too by telling me to shoot if I'm open and that it's okay if I miss," Trollano said. "They're giving me playing time, so it's up to me to repay them."
The team is hoping that Trollano will continue to play a big part in their title chase but for now, everyone is glad that the swingman is returning their trust in him by playing at a high level.
"Of course I'd be happy [if we won the title]. TNT hasn't won in a long time and everyone's hungry. If we get this, I would have contributed to it," Trollano said.
"We've re-signed him to a longer-term deal which he totally deserves. And he's rewarding us now. Look I'm really happy for him, proud of him 'cause he's playing great," said Dickel.