Roger Pogoy rescued TNT from a bum start on Sunday and put the Tropang Giga back in the game, and Jayson Castro finished off Alaska with the last six of his 28 points coming inside the final 67 seconds of a 100-95 clipping of the Aces as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)—out of commission for 217 days because of the coronavirus pandemic—had a swashbuckling restart to its stalled Philippine Cup at Angeles University Foundation gym in Clark Freeport.
Pogoy finished with a career-high 45 points built around 10 triples, and Castro showed why he is the TNT franchise’s best when he took over at the crunch as the Tropang Giga showed why they are considered as threats to end idle five-time defending champion San Miguel Beer’s stranglehold of the league’s most prestigious tournament.
“I just have confidence in myself,” Pogoy said in Filipino. “God just blessed me.”
TNT lagged by 17 points at the onset of the second period before Pogoy hit shots with reckless abandon, finishing with 21 points after the first two periods as the Tropang Giga went into the second half tied with the game Aces.
“We were trying to feel each other out in the first period,” Pogoy said when asked what went wrong in that horrendous stretch. “We were kind of expecting that because we really didn’t have time to play that much (coming into the bubble).”
“That’s what we expect from him, to get his numbers at least offensively,” coach Bong Ravena said in the postgame presser, which was also streamed to media.
Castro served as the steady hand in the stretch as TNT survived the absence of Ray Parks Jr. (calf strain) and Poy Erram, who was ejected with still over seven minutes left in the third because of a technical foul. Erram was also called for a flagrant foul earlier.
Ravena said that the first game serves as an indication of where his team is at right now, and the game showed the many kinks they need to iron out if they want to win it all.
“We’re still far—I mean, our level,” Ravena said. “We’re not even at the halfway point yet. Although that is understandable since this is our first game.”The Aces drew twin digits from four players, with Abu Tratter leading the way with 17 and Robbie Herndon, an acquisition from Magnolia earlier in the year, shooting 16 like Mike DiGregorio. Vic Manuel chipped in with 15 points.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Alaska, which closed out the first period with a 30-15 lead only to lose the second quarter horribly.
Meanwhile, commissioner Willie Marcial, who celebrates his birthday on Monday, was, like the rest of the PBA community, ecstatic that they got the first game of the reboot out of the way.
“I’m already happy just seeing the ball being tipped off,” he told the Inquirer.
TNT takes on Terrafirma (formerly Columbian) on Tuesday, while Alaska will try to enter the win column when it goes against Meralco on Wednesday. INQ
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