ALL the experts picked the Talk N Text KaTropa to be among the tournament leaders of the 2016 Philippine Basketball Association Governors Cup. But absolutely nobody could have predicted the rise of the Mahindra Enforcers.
But this odd couple are indeed leading the pack this conference.
The unbeaten TNT KaTropa and Mahindra Enforcers are tied at the top of the standings with three wins. Following closely are Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (2-1), the Meralco Bolts (2-1), the San Miguel Beermen (2-1) and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (2-1).
The other teams include the Alaska Aces (1-2), the Blackwater Elite (1-2), the NLEX Road Warriors (1-2) and the Star Hotshots (1-2). At the bottom of the standings are GlobalPort Batang Pier (0-3) and the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters (0-3).
National team player and the consensus best point guard in Asia Jayson Castro lead TNT to a hard-earned 120-118 victory over Alaska July 29, Friday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Castro drilled 26 points, issued 10 assists and tallied five steals to lead TNT to victory.
The Aces led early but TNT KaTropa and seemed to have the game in hand after drilling seven triples in the fourth quarter alone to post a 118-112 lead with 21.1 seconds left.
TNT KaTropa also benefitted from critical but dubious non-calls by the referees in the dying seconds of the match.
With 23 seconds left to play and the score pegged at 116-111 for TNT, Alaska’s Chris Banchero attempted the first of two free throws. Talk N Text had only four players inside the court: Ranidel De Ocampo, Mario Little, Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes.
Harvey Carey, who should have been the fifth player was on the Talk N Text bench. No technical, which would have given Alaska another free throw, was called against TNT.
With 21 seconds left to play and the score pegged at 116-112 TNT inbounded the ball to De Ocampo who took three steps after receiving the inbound pass. No travelling violation call was made.
With 2.5 seconds left to play and TNT leading 120-118 Alaska had one final chance to win or tie the game.
Banchero threw the ball from the baseline to Alaska import Buck Henton at midcourt. Henton could not even attempt a shot after he was tripped by Ryan Reyes. Henton fell to the floor as time expired. No call was made to preserve the TNT Katropa victory.
Meanwhile, Mahindra made an even bigger splash than TNT on Wednesday, July 27 as it stunned San Miguel Beer, 105-103. The Enforcers withstood a late rally by the defending champion Beermen to prevail and tally their third victory this conference.
Mahindra import James White did everything to power his team to victory. White tallied 34 points and grabbed 11 boards. Niño Canaleta and Paolo Taha chipped in 17 and 12 markers, respectively.
The Enforcers posted an early nine-point lead over an obviously overconfident San Miguel Beer side. Late in the fourth period the Beermen scored 10 unanswered points, capped by a breakaway layup by Alex Cabagnot to set the stage for a see-saw battle late in the game.
Taha then stepped up for the Enforcers. The former College of Saint Benilde Blazer scored on a fastbreak layup to give his team the lead for good, 103-102, with one minute and 17 seconds left. Chito Jaime converted two free throws — his only two points in the game — which proved to be the insurance points for the Enforcers.
The Beermen had plenty of chances to inch closer. June Mar Fajardo posted up, was blocked and fouled. He split his free throws to push the Beermen closer to Mahindra who led by two points.
The Beermen, who opted not to call a timeout in the final 12 seconds of the game, could not capitalize. SMB import AZ Reid missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as Enforcers went on to post the shock victory and grab a share of the lead.