His status uncertain minutes before the game after a minor injury suffered three nights ago, Roger Pogoy put together a scintillating performance to help TNT destroy Phoenix Super LPG, 110-91, and keep the Tropang Giga’s unblemished record in the PBA Philippine Cup while handing the Fuel Masters a rude reality check on Monday night.
Pogoy hit 20 of his 30 points in a feisty second half that also flaunted the Tropang Giga’s poise—something that many of the teams here inside the bubble hope to achieve early in this whirlwind tournament.
“For us coaches, he was supposed to take a rest,” TNT’s Bong Ravena said of Pogoy, who was a game-time decision because of a sprained ankle. “But the kid wanted to play. We’re lucky to have a player like him—all heart.”
Save for a shaky start during the inaugurals last Oct. 11 that had them trailing Alaska big before pulling out a 100-95 win, the Tropang Giga sustained their impressive run and reclaimed the solo lead.
“Honestly, I don’t know if [the perfect record] is such a good thing,” Ravena told the Inquirer, just moments after his charges tabbed a fourth straight win at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G. “But I guess it’s good in a sense that at the back of the other teams’ minds, they know exactly how we are as a team.”
TNT also flaunted its depth, with a total of seven players finishing with 10 points or more in what was an easy victory.
Ravena, however, said there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially after seeing his squad trail by as many as 14 in the first half.
“I’m just relieved, especially after Phoenix’ [hot] start,” he said. “Fortunately, we were able to tighten things and claw back from that hole.”
Phoenix, which was yearning for this “fun” matchup among erstwhile unbeaten teams, got 31 points from Matthew Wright. But the Fuel Masters slipped to their first loss in three games with no one able to give Wright strong backup, with Jason Perkins and Justin Chua, who were big in their first two wins, limited eight and seven points, respectively.
It was a statement victory for TNT as it continues to justify pretournament hype that had the Tropang Giga listed as early favorites to knock a seemingly vulnerable San Miguel Beer side from its lofty perch.
But it was also a message that Ravena hopes his players won’t get too intoxicated on.
“Our mind-set remains unchanged: We take things one game at a time. We have a short-term goal, which is to reach the top four,” he said.
“From there, we’d start again,” he added.
TNT guns for their fifth straight win against a dangerous Blackwater side on Thursday, even as Phoenix tries to pick up the pieces when it slugs it out with another unbeaten crew in Barangay Ginebra on Wednesday.
Ref sent home
Meanwhile, commissioner Willie Marcial said he has decided to relieve referee Sherwin Pineda of his duties inside the bubble following his controversial whistle in the waning moments of Rain or Shine’s 70-68 win over NorthPort on Sunday night.
Pineda, who Marcial regards as one of the leading referees the league has, will be sent home back to Manila in the coming days after committing a blatant boo-boo in a flop play by Rain or Shine’s Rey Nambatac with 1.3 seconds left that eventually broke a 68-all tie when two free throws were awarded to the Elasto Painter guard.
“It was a wrong call, period,” said deputy commissioner and the technical committee’s head Eric Castro, who joined the PBA chief during a quick conversation with reporters here.
Pineda called a foul on NorthPort’s Paolo Taha with 1.3 seconds left, sending Nambatac to the free-throw line. INQ
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