By JONAS TERRADO
TNT banked on another hot start and end game poise to beat Magnolia Pambansang Manok, 105-93, and take a 2-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals Friday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Tropang Giga made it two in a row over the Hotshots after firing 10 three-pointers in the first quarter anchored by rookie guard Mikey Williams.
The super rookie went on to finish with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field as TNT completed half of the job in the best-of-seven championship series.
Victory, however, almost slipped away from TNT after Magnolia slowly got its bearings and was able to narrow the gap from 21 in the second down to four in the fourth period.
But Williams was quick to douse the fire with timely shots that restored the Tropang Giga’s control of the ballgame.
Coach Chot Reyes saw his other players step up, namely Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Ryan Reyes and Brian Heruela.
Castro, the TNT skipper who has embraced the role of a spark plug off the bench, scored 16 points, Rosario had 12 points and six rebounds while Erram added six points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Heruela was huge for the Tropang Giga during that first quarter barrage on his way to 11 points while Reyes added 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Even Kelly Williams, who was considered doubtful after hurting his back while going for a dunk in TNT’s 88-70 victory in the opener, had a decent showing and put up three points and five rebounds.
The 10 three-pointers TNT made resulted in a 40-27 lead at the end of the first quarter, numbers that were somewhat unusual against a defensive-minded Magnolia side that was ranked second in points allowed this conference.
A three-point play by Williams with over seven minutes to left in the second made it 57-36 for TNT while shots from beyond the arc led to 13 triples in the first half which set a finals record.
Down 66-50 at the half, Magnolia slowed things down and made it a dragged-out third which saw Ian Sangalang, who played just 10 minutes in Game 1 due to back spasms, scoring 12 of his 25 points in that quarter.
Sangalang’s basket, 7:41 to go in the fourth, cut TNT’s lead to 90-86, and momentum appeared to be on Magnolia’s side.
But Williams drained a three, Heruela scored in transition after a steal and the former hitting another basket to bring the Tropang Giga’s lead back to double figures at 97-86, over six minutes remaining in the fourth.
TNT 105 — M.Williams 28, Castro 16, Rosario 12, Heruela 11, Reyes 10, Pogoy 9, Erram 6, Khobuntin 5, Montalbo 5, K.Williams 3, Exciminiano 0.
MAGNOLIA 93 — Sangalang 25, Lee 12, Barroca 11, Abueva 11, Dionisio 9, Ahanmisi 6, Jalalon 5, Reavis 4, Dela Rosa 2, Corpuz 0.
Quarters: 40-27, 66-50, 86-79, 105-93.