TNT KaTropa signified its return to title contention in the 2016-2017 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup with a decisive 117-98 victory over the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters, yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jason Castro led a blazing TNT run as he converted a fastbreak layup to push his team to an imposing 26-point advantage, 84-58, late in the third quarter.
TNT eventually held a 21-point, 90-69, lead after the third period.
They were never seriously threatened after as TNT even added to that advantage in the fourth quarter. Mo Tautuaa converted a pair of free throws to push TNT to a 28-point, 105-77 lead with 6:20 left to play.
With the victory, TNT KaTropa (3 wins, 2 losses) climbed into a tie at fourth place with the Blackwater Elite (3-2).
More importantly, the resounding victory served as a reminder of the powerhouse status of the squad which was picked as among the pre-season favorites this conference.
Leading the standings are the San Miguel Beermen (3-1), the GlobalPort Batang Pier (3-1) and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (3-1).
Tied at sixth spot are the Alaska Aces (2-2), the Star Hotshots (2-2) and the Meralco Bolts (2-2) ). Bringing up the rear are Phoenix (2-3), Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (1-2), the NLEX Road Warriors (1-3) and the Mahindra Floodbuster (0-4).
TNT KaTropa enjoyed a six point, 28-22, advantage at the end of the first quarter after free throws by Jason Castro and Kelly Williams pushed them ahead.
TNT hiked their lead to 18 big points early in the second period. Troy Rosario and Castro drained a pair of free throws. Mo Tautuaa received a pass from Castro and pivoted inside the paint to score from underneath. Castro converted two free throws. Ryan Reyes then scooted in for a layup to push TNT ahead, 42-24.
Phoenix cut the gap to 15 markers, 42-27, after free throws by Prince Caperal and Matthew Wright. But Williams converted a pair of jumpshots to lead another 6-0 TNT run as KaTropa led by 21 points, 48-27, late in the second period.
JC Intal and Simon Enciso converted back-to-back baskets to end the second period to cut the TNT lead to 15 points, 60-45, at halftime.
TNT KaTropa put some distance between the two teams early in the third period. Tautuaa scored on a layup followed by a steal and a fastbreak layup by Matt Ganuelas Rosser as TNT extended its lead back up to 22 points, 73-51, late in the third period.
Jason Castro led another TNT run late in the third as he converted a fastbreak layup to push his team to a 26-point advantage, 84-58, late in the third quarter. TNT eventually held a 21-point, 90-69, advantage after the third period.