MANILA – TNT took the last Top 4 incentive for the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals after surviving a huge second half from NorthPort for a 106-101 overtime win in the final game of the elimination round at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Friday night.
Despite blowing an 18-point lead, the Tropang Giga prevailed after the Batang Pier committed crucial errors late into the extension as the former got a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round as the third seed.
TNT quickly went for the kill, opening a 53-35 cushion with a minute-and-a-half to play before halftime.
But come the third period, NorthPort crawled back and even took a 73-72 lead at the end of the quarter. NorthPort outscored TNT, 34-18, in that period.
The Tropang Giga recovered in the fourth quarter, even taking an 89-84 cushion with three-and-a-half minutes to play in regulation only for the Batang Pier to score six straight points to retake the lead, 90-89 with 1:49 left.
Aaron Fuller eventually sent the game to overtime with a free throw, although NorthPort had a chance to steal the win only for Jamie Malonzo to miss a three-point basket before the final buzzer.
TNT began the overtime period red hot, scoring 10 straight points to open a 100-90 lead with three minutes left.
The Batang Pier still put up a fight and cut the lead down to three, 104-101, with 46 seconds to play, but they took a gamble and went for the three only for Arwind Santos and Jamel Artis to misfire from long range.
Malonzo had his chance, but RR Pogoy’s chase-down defense forced him to commit a traveling violation with 17 seconds left.
NorthPort almost atoned for itself as it nearly forced Mikey Williams to an eight-second violation only for him to call a timeout with 12.3 left.
Ryan Reyes then made two free throws off Robert Bolick’s sixth foul for the final tally with 11.5 seconds even as Santos was called for an offensive foul as he extended his leg in hopes of fishing a three-point foul.
Williams finished with 28 points, four rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for TNT, which will face Ginebra in the quarterfinals starting on Wednesday.
Despite his team having two lives, Coach Chot Reyes said he is not taking the perennial crowd darlings lightly.
“We did everything we could to win this game only to face Ginebra in the next round of the playoffs. We’re playing the team with the resident best import (Justin Brownlee), so we just have to get ready,” Reyes said. “I think (this win) prepares us for the tougher games ahead.”
Aaron Fuller and Jayson Castro each added 15 points with the former also grabbing 20 rebounds for the double-double.
Artis had 39 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks, while Robert Bolick added 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and one steal for NorthPort, which now needs to beat Phoenix at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in a play-in game to seal the eighth seed in the quarterfinals. (PNA)