Sta. Rosa—Chiba Jets denied TNT a fitting welcome in the first ever EASL (East Asia Super League) home game in the country, scoring a wire-to-wire 75-66 win on All Saints Day at the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex.
John Mooney was the thorn on the side of the Tropang Giga, who played without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, as the 6-foot-9 import torched the opposition for 30 points and 16 rebounds on 63 percent shooting from the field.
The Jets, the B. League runner-up team last season, got off to a 9-2 start, led by as many as 20 points late in the second quarter, before surviving a huge TNT fightback in the second half to notch the win.
“We never led the game. I think we lost the game in the beginning. I think it’s kind of surprising to see that for us being here, as the home team, sleeping in our own beds and not have that kind of energy in the beginning. So I think that was the difference,” said TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa.
Chiba have won back-to-back away from home and stands on top of Group A with a 3-0 record. TNT lost to the Jets for the second straight time and fell to 0-2 in the tournament that has Spalding and Hyperice as official partners and Arena Plus, Seda Nuvali, and Summit as local partners.
Hollis-Jefferson watched the game on the sidelines as he has yet to fully recover after being hospitalized from a case of gastroenteritis.
“It was something that we did not expect because Rondae attended our camp a couple of weeks back and he seemed OK,” said Lastimosa. “And all of a sudden, everything turned for the worst.”
In the absence of the PBA Governors’ Cup Best Import, Quincy Miller carried the fight for TNT with 22 points and 13 rebounds. He had 14 in the third quarter when the Tropang Giga closed in and trimmed the deficit to 61-56.
But TNT couldn’t complete the job as Chiba found a way to keep the rallying Tropang Giga at bay despite fatigue finally setting in as the Jets were playing their 12th game in less than a month.
“Really proud of our team of the really tough schedule that we have. We found a way to win,” said Chiba coach John Patrick. “We played a really good first half, and we knew they weren’t gonna be quiet in the second half. They came back, made it a close game, and I’m just really proud that we kept fighting and found a way to win.”
Jaydee Tungcab was the lone local to finish in double figures for TNT, with 10 points which he all scored in the first half and kept the team afloat.
DJ Stephens, the other Chiba import, also chipped in double-double numbers of 15 points and 10 rebounds, while crowd favorite and Japan national team captain Yuki Togashi hit four three-pointers for 14 points.
Chiba (75) – Mooney 30, Stephens 15, Togashi 14, Ogawa 7, Hara 5, Okura 4, Brown 0, Kanechika 0, Kaishu 0, Arao 0.
TNT (66) – Miller 22, Tungcab 10, Castro 8, Oftana 8, K Williams 7, Ponferada 3, Cruz 3, Khobuntin 3, Reyes 2, Montalbo 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Quarterscores: 23-14; 50-32; 64-56; 75-66.