TNT KaTropa refused to fold up in a fierce shootout with Rain or Shine, hanging tough to the finish and scoring a pulsating 118-114 triumph to claim the last berth in the PBA Governors Cup Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
The Texters refused to give up and refused to give in.
In the end, they saw the Elasto Painters commit a grievous error and TNT escaped with the win that sent them to the best-of-five semifinals versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
They begin their showdown at 7 p.m. Monday at the same venue.
The Elasto Painters failed to complete a two-game conquest of the higher-ranked Texters and saw the end of the road in the season as import J'Nathan Bullock threw an errant pass to Beau Belga in their last possession.
"We came out the better team, and part of it was due to breaks of the game that favored us in the end," said TNT coach Nash Racela.
"It's a hard-fought victory. But we knew all along going into this series that we would have a hard time against Rain or Shine. Coach Caloy (Garcia) has been doing a good job managing his team and motivating his players. It showed in the two games we played," Racela also said.
"Rice making crucial three-pointers really helped us," Racela added, making special mention of their import who flirted with a triple-double performance and delivered the lethal baskets.
Rice scored the biggest basket of the game in being at the right place at the right time. He tossed in an air ball thrown by Jason Castro, and the Texters took the crucial two-point lead at 116-114 with time down to 10.2 seconds.
The E-Painters could have still forced an overtime but Bullock turned the ball over on an errant pass to Belga.
Rice finished with a near triple-double job with 34 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists while Castro had his own sterling all-around performance with 20 markers, 12 assists and six boards.
Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy and Kelly Williams contributed double-digit outputs in a fierce battle where no team enjoyed a double-digit margin.
The Texters threatened to make an early breakaway, 13-4, but the E-Painters applied the brakes, and the two teams figured in an exciting seesaw battle all the way to the finish.
They figured in a frenetic battle marked by 16 deadlocks and the same number of lead changes.*pba.com
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