By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE TNT KaTropa assured themselves a top-two finish in the elimination round of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup and the twice-to-beat advantage that goes with it in the next round following their 115-97 victory over the Blackwater Elite on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Using an explosive 35-point quarter in the second frame, the KaTropa built enough cushion for the rest of the contest and notch their ninth win in 10 matches to secure one of the two coveted top spots for the quarterfinal incentive with a game to spare.
The game got off to a competitive start with the teams jostling hard to gain control of the match.
The score was at 17-all with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter before TNT went on an 8-6 finish to take hold of a two-point cushion after the opening frame.
In the second canto, the KaTropa would explode, led by import Terrence Jones.
They outscored the Elite, 21-6, in the first six minutes to build a 46-29 advantage.
TNT kept the pressure on Blackwater on its way to a 60-43 separation by the halftime break.
Rookies Ray Parks Jr. and Diego Dario sparked the Elite to a spirited charge to begin the third canto.
They outgunned the KaTropa, 9-0, to come to within eight points, 60-52, after just two minutes.
But Mr. Jones and Troy Rosario would start hitting their mark after, helping once again their team build a bigger lead of 17 points, 74-57, with six minutes to go in the quarter.
TNT would pick up from there, mounting a bigger hurdle of 91-66 after three quarters.
With the match pretty much under their control, the KaTropa spent the final canto fending off any comeback attempt by the Elite.
The score was at 100-79 with six minutes left on the clock and TNT was not to be threatened seriously after that.
TNT KaTropa (9-1), which has now won seven straight games, was paced by former NBA player Mr. Jones who wound up with a triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists. He also had three blocks.
Mr. Rosario had 14 points while Jayson Castro finished with 13 points and 10 assists. Roger Pogoy and Brian Heruela each had 12 and Don Trollano 11 for TNT.
Mr. Parks led Blackwater (6-4) with 21 points and 10 boards with Michael DiGregorio adding 19 points.
The loss officially closed the door for the Elite a shot at top two.
“We are working on the defensive end and we did that early in the game,” said Mr. Jones of their victory.
TNT plays its final elimination game on July 17 against the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok while Blackwater plays next on July 14 versus the Alaska Aces.