by Jonas Terrado
ANTIPOLO CITY – TNT KaTropa benefited from three missed free throws by James Yap in the dying seconds to escape with a 105-102 victory over Rain or Shine last night and end its elimination round campaign on a high note in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Center here.
Roger Pogoy continued his impressive rookie season by breaking a 101-all tie on a long jumper with 26.8 seconds remaining, moments after Yap muffed two charities that would have given the Elasto Painters the lead.
A wild sequence occurred after the timeout, with Yap drawing a foul on Ryan Reyes after missing a one-handed shot off Pogoy before recovering the ball off a deflection by teammate Gabe Norwood, 5.6 to play.
But Yap missed his third consecutive foul throw, before converting the next to pull the Elasto Painters within a point, 103-102. Ranidel de Ocampo sealed the final tally with two charities for TNT as Jeff Chan muffed a desperate try at the buzzer.
“Expected naman yun, especially that Rain or Shine needs the game for them to have a good placing in the quarterfinals,” said TNT coach Nash Racela when reminded of Rain or Shine’s dire need to win in order to avoid falling to a twice-to-beat disadvantage predicament in the quarterfinals.
In escaping the jaws of defeats after squandering a 16-point second quarter lead, TNT entered the quarters with an 8-3 record, its position still unknown with two playdates left in the eliminations.
The KaTropa are still in the hunt for the twice-to-beat, but would likely fall in a best-of-three series with Star at 8-2 and San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel tied for second at presstime with identical 7-2 slates.
Ginebra was playing Meralco in the second game last night.
“I think at this point the important thing (is that we avoided) a twice-to-beat disadvantage, so important thing is that we were able to secure (at least) a best-of-three rather than in a disadvantage (in the quarterfinals),” said Racela.
Import Joshua Smith, a crowd favorite owing to his bulky physique, showed his capability of making contributions for TNT with 23 points and 12 rebounds in his second game since replacing Donte Greene. De Ocampo was the top local scorer with 21 points.
Yap scored 23 points to move 26 shy of becoming the 14th player in PBA history to join the 10,000-point club. However, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the 2006 and 2010 Most Valuable Player after showing the mortal side of the man known for thriving in pressure situations.
The Elasto Painters, who ended the elims at 5-6 and in danger of falling to at least seventh place in the playoffs, orchestrated the comeback even without import Duke Crews.