By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE TNT KaTropa made a triumphant return to PBA Philippine Cup action on Sunday as they cut down the erstwhile streaking Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 100-92, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Made a telling run in the second period of their Philippine Basketball Association contest, the KaTropa never surrendered control after to earn their second win in a row and improve to 4-3 while sending the Elasto Painters (7-2) to their first defeat in six matches.
The match got off tight as both teams tried to establish early control.
The score was tied at 15-all with five minutes left in the first quarter before TNT made a late push to go on top, 23-20, at the end of the first 12 minutes.
James Yap and Beau Belga conspired to give Rain or Shine a strong start in the second, towing their team to a 29-26 lead by the 9:25 mark.
But the KaTropa were quick to address their slippage, answering with a 14-2 run in the next four minutes to build a 40-31 lead.
They kept their foot on the gas pedal after and sped to a 56-39 advantage at the half as Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario made their presence felt.
The Elasto Painters tried to regain some lost ground to start the third canto only to find the KaTropa ready and able to counter.
Rain or Shine managed to trim its deficit, 61-50, with 7:39 remaining in the period before TNT separated itself anew and extended its lead to 16 points, 72-56, three minutes later.
The Elasto Painters stayed resilient though, cutting TNT’s lead to just 10 points, 75-65, entering the final quarter.
Rain or Shine looked to build on the momentum it got at the end of the third canto to begin the fourth period.
Its efforts, however, were tempered by TNT as Mr. Castro And Co. had answers to their opponents and stayed ahead.
The score was at 89-74 midway after a Castro triple.
The Elasto Painters did not go down sans a fight, trimming their deficit to just six points, 95-89, with 1:08 remaining with rookie JJ Alejandro waxing hot from beyond the arc.
TNT tried to add to its lead after but was unsuccessful.
It saw its lead cut down further to four points, 95-91, after a basket from Mr. Yap with 33 seconds left.
Mr. Castro stopped the bleeding for TNT with a pair of free throws with 28 ticks to go to make it 97-91.
Mr. Yap made it a five-point game, 97-92, with a split from the charity line with 24 seconds remaining but Rain or Shine would not get any closer than that as TNT secured the win the rest of the way.
Mr. Castro led the way for TNT with a near triple-double of 20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Mr. Rosario also had 20 markers while Jericho Cruz had 15.
Rain or Shine, meanwhile, was paced by Mr. Yap’s 18 points with Maverick Ahanmisi adding 14 points.
“Coach told us that this game was crucial for us. It could spell the difference in us advancing or not as if you look at the standings we are in the middle. We just worked hard for this win and we are happy we got it,” said Mr. Castro in the vernacular after the game.
TNT had a month’s break as the league took a two-week lull for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers late last month.