ANTIPOLO — TNT won what was practically a playoff matchup against Star.
The KaTropa held their ground against the Hotshots Sunday at the Ynares Center here, picking up a big-time 104-99 victory in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup.
Now at 7-3, TNT boosted its chances of grabbing a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals by forcing a tie for third place with idle NLEX.
With the Hotshots storming back from a 17-point deficit to cut the lead to two, 98-96, with 57 seconds to go, TNT turned to import Glen Rice Jr. in the clutch to avoid a disastrous collapse.
Rice scored the final six points for the KaTropa, back-to-back tough layups and a pair of insurance free throws, to seal the deal. Those six points were his only makes in the final period after putting up 37 in the first three quarters.
He ended up with 43 markers on top of 19 rebounds, and nine assists.
“We knew going to our last four games that it’s gonna be a tough stretch for us. We’ve been going through ups and downs but I think the more important thing is us finding ways to win,” head coach Nash Racela said.
“And that’s exactly the same message I had for Glen during one of our timeouts because he was complaining about the non calls. He was saying we were in penalty while the other team didn’t have any fouls in the fourth quarter. I just reminded him that that refs won’t adjust for sure, the only thing we could do is find ways to win. Play through it and play above it,” he added.
Aside from Rice, TNT’s trio of Gilas Pilipinas standouts delivered as Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, and RR Pogoy all scored 12 points each.
After a close first half, the floodgates opened for the KaTropa in the third period and the team led by as many as 17, 89-72, behind Rice.
However, in typical Star fashion, the Hotshots made it a game behind an incredible team effort although it was never enough to actually take control in the fourth quarter.
New import Kristofer Acox, who replaced young Malcolm Hill, led the way for Star with 18 points and 18 rebounds while Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang dropped 17 points apiece.
The Hotshots dropped to 5-4 for the conference.
TNT 104 – Rice Jr. 43, Castro 12, Pogoy 12, Rosario 12, Williams 8, Semerad 7, Reyes 6, Tautuaa 4, Lingganay 0, Carey 0.
STAR 99 – Acox 18, Lee 17, Sangalang 17, Jalalon 13, Ramos 11, Pingris 8, Reavis 6, Dela Rosa 4, Barroca 3, Melton 2, Simon 0, Gamalinda 0.
Quarter scores: 27-22, 51-45, 89-75, 104-99
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.
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