TNT KaTropa recovered from a sluggish start, erasing an early 17-point deficit to turn back the skidding Alaska Aces, 119-110, in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup Saturday at Ibalong Centrum for Recreation in Legazpi, Albay.
TNT’s new import Joshua Smith, the club’s third reinforcement this conference, tallied 23 points and 10 boards as the burly big man helped KaTropa improve to 7-3.
Jayson Castro scored 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists in his return to TNT after suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas. Ranidel De Ocampo added 15 markers, while RR Garcia and RR Pogoy finished with 13 and 12, respectively.
Determined to end its three-game losing skid, Alaska frustrated TNT right from the get-go, with the Aces’ pressure defense forcing TNT to commit 11 turnovers in the first period.
The Aces scored 18 points off those miscues. Adding insult to injury was the foul situation of Smith who was slapped with two early fouls.
Alaska enjoyed its biggest advantage at 17 points, 36-19. But TNT stormed back in the second period, with a Troy Rosario layup snatching the lead back to KaTropa, 56-55, as part of a 16-4 finishing kick to the first half.
Chris Banchero quickly gave the lead back to Alaska with a buzzer-beating layup. The Aces pulled away once more in the third quarter as Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel and Cory Jefferson sparked a run to push their lead to 13, 88-75.
There was a scary moment for Alaska in that quarter though, as Manuel injured his knee after a fastbreak layup. He was able to get up, but didn’t return to the game.
TNT didn’t back down as it opened the fourth quarter with seven unanswered points to tie the game at 95-all.
De Ocampo and Pogoy came up with huge plays as TNT regained the lead, 107-105, with 5:24 remaining. Castro and De Ocampo then stretched their lead to six, 111-105, with 2:48 left–good enough to keep Alaska at bay.
Jefferson scored 29 points and seven boards to lead Alaska but his numbers weren’t enough to stop the Aces (4-4) from losing their fourth consecutive game.