By JONAS TERRADO
League-leading TNT stopped NorthPort’s winning streak while Ginebra brought life back to its title-retention bid after orchestrating a signature comeback in the PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Their offense anchored on the hot-shooting duo of Mikey Williams and Kib Montalbo, the Tropang Giga beat the Batang Pier, 102-92, a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Williams continued his impressive rookie campaign but his performance may been overshadowed by the major presence of on both ends as the Tropang Giga pulled away in the second half to register their ninth win in 10 games.
The win also assured TNT of the top seed in the quarterfinals.
Williams put up 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting while Montalbo scored a career-high 22 points with five rebounds and three steals, apart from his intangibles that were not seen in the statsheet.
Montalbo along with the rest of the TNT defense limited Cignal Play PBA Press Corps Player of the Week Robert Bolick to just 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting as NorthPort fell to an even 4-4 record that spoiled the return of coach PIdo Jarencio and his staff from COVID-19 protocols.
Meantime, the Gin Kings roared back in the fourth to beat the Phoenix Super LPG, 94-87.
The Gin Kings had to scratch their way back from being down 19 late in the first quarter behind Stanley Pringle, LA Tenorio, Christian Standhardinger and Scottie Thompson in order to get an all-important win at this point of a trying campaign for the defending champions.
Ginebra moved to a tie for seventh place with idle NLEX at 4-5 after disappointing setbacks to San Miguel Beer and TNT.
Coach Tim Cone’s wards also went into the game without the services of Japeth Aguilar, who sprained his MCL against TNT.
“For us, it was a big game. We needed that, obviously, not just to move up into the standings but also to create a positive feeling around the team,” a relieved Cone said in the virtual postgame interview.
Pringle scored 31 points, including a basket that broke an 87-all tie with two minutes remaining, while Tenorio bounced back from a scoreless outing opposite TNT by firing 23 points.
Standhardinger had 21 points and 12 rebounds in his solo role patrolling the middle in Aguilar’s absence and Thompson registered 12 points and 11 rebounds, some of which allowed Ginebra to retain possession during the crucial moments.
Jason Perkins’ 30 points and Matthew Wright’s 18 weren’t enough to complete the job as Phoenix dropped a contest where it led for most of the way before running out of gas in the end to fall in ninth spot at 4-6.
TNT 102 — Williams M. 29, Montalbo 22, Rosario 18, Williams K. 11, Castro 9, Reyes 6, Heruela 4, Pogoy 3, Erram 0, Marcelo 0, Mendoza 0, Alejandro 0.
NORTHPORT 92 — Taha 20, Ferrer 17, Malonzo 15, Bolick 12, Grey 10, Onwubere 8, Balanza 4, Lanete 4, Elorde 1, Rike 0.
Quarters: 19-22, 42-41, 76-64, 102-92.
GINEBRA 94 — Pringle 31, Tenorio 23, Standhardinger 21, Thompson 12, Mariano 3, Tolentino 2, Dillinger 2, Caperal 0, Devance 0.
PHOENIX 87 — Perkins 30, Wright 18, Jazul 15, Chua 12, Calisaan 3, Melecio 3, Banchero 2, Pascual 2, Demusis 2, Tamsi 0, Garcia 0
Quarters: 16-33, 46-52, 69-76, 94-87.