by Jonas Terrado
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Columbian vs Magnolia
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Alaska
TNT KaTropa weathered its first adversity under new coach Bong Ravena and team consultant Mark Dickel after coming back from a 23-point deficit to edge winless NorthPort, 104-102, for a third straight win in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Marqus Blakely’s left-handed layup over three defenders with 6.8 seconds left followed by a deflection on the ensuing play enabled the KaTropa to pull off an escape act and improve to 4-4 in the season-ending conference.
The KaTropa remained undefeated since four defeats in the first five games resulted in Nash Racela going under an indefinite leave, a move that eventually led to the change that saw Ravena being appointed head coach and the Kiwi-born Dickel coming over to take an active consultancy role.
One of the major changes that was visible in the latest win was the defensive mentality that was very rare for the TNT squad usually known for its offense.
Switching to a full-court press in the fourth quarter, TNT forced NorthPort to several miscues that enabled Blakely and Terrence Romeo to make most of the shots and erase the lead of the NorthPort squad which in the second quarter was ahead 60-37.
“We’re emphasizing defense as much as possible,” said Ravena, who was joining forces with Dickel and assistant coach Eric Gonzales in actively calling the shots at the sidelines.
Romeo finished with 25 points and Blakely produced 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals for TNT.
Five players led by import Rashad Woods’ 19 scored in double figures but NorthPort remained winless after six games, tying idle Columbian Dyip at the bottom of the standings.
Romeo tied the score at 96-all after completing back-to-back triples, only to see Sean Anthony restore NorthPort’s hold on the lead, 98-96, with 2:09 to go.
Don Trollano drained an elbow three, 1:46 remaining, for a 99-98 TNT advantage. The KaTropa stayed ahead but the Batang Pier would eventually tie the score at 102-all on Paolo Taha’s tip-in off Anthony’s missed freethrow.
Blakely blew past Woods to his left before converting the layup that put TNT ahead for good. He then tapped Woods’ pass intended for a teammate, before TNT’s Kelly Williams retrieved the ball and got fouled with 2.8 to go.
TNT 104 – Romeo 25, Blakely 23, Rosario 12, Cruz 11, Pogoy 10, Trollano 7, Garcia 6, Reyes 3, Carey 2.
NorthPort 102 – Woods 19, Pringle 18, Tautuaa 18, Grey 18, Anthony 15, Javelona 9, Taha 4, Guinto 1, Elorde 0, Arana 0, Espinas 0, Fortuna.
Quarters: 21-32, 43-66, 71-87, 104-102.