PBA Commissioner’s Cup

TNT bucks early RHJ ejection, rides Castro hot hands in Converge OT conquest

JR Isaga

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TNT bucks early RHJ ejection, rides Castro hot hands in Converge OT conquest

AGELESS. TNT guard Jayson Castro drives against Converge guard Jerrick Balanza in the 2023 PBA Commissioner's Cup

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TNT veteran star Jayson Castro turns back the clock with a 23-point performance as the Tropang Giga endure an early ejection to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in an eventual overtime escape of Converge

MANILA, Philippines – The TNT Tropang Giga bounced back from their opening-day loss in the 2023 PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a 101-98 overtime escape of the Converge FiberXers at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City on Saturday, November 11.

Surviving an early ejection to returning star import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the 11:18 mark of the third quarter, the Tropang Giga rose to a 1-1 record on the back of ageless star guard Jayson Castro’s 23-point eruption in 30 minutes off the bench.

Rising star forward Calvin Oftana added 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting as Hollis-Jefferson punched in a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double in just 19 minutes before getting tossed for inadvertently bouncing the ball on Mike Nieto’s head.

Without Hollis-Jefferson for essentially the entire second half, the FiberXers successfully rallied all the way back from an 18-point second-quarter deficit, 37-55, and forced overtime, 95-all, off a Tom Vodanovich putback with 15.2 seconds left in the fourth.

Buckets then came in short supply in the extra period, but TNT nonetheless managed to create a 101-98 cushion after Castro fed a streaking Jewel Ponferrada with a pinpoint bounce pass to the post for the reverse layup with 16.9 ticks left.

Converge had a pair of chances to force a second overtime, but Mac Tallo’s corner bomb clanked off with 5 seconds left, while Vodanovich’s own wide-open trey from the top of the key only drew front iron as Castro corralled the board to seal the win for good.

“It was a tough game,” lamented TNT head coach Jojo Lastimosa. “I think we were just fortunate that we had a lead as high as [18] and eventually, we knew that lead would disappear, and we hoped that if a comeback were to come, it would just happen right before the end, which is what happened.”

Vodanovich led all scorers in the sorry loss with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists as the FiberXers fell to a 0-2 slate.

Jerrick Balanza powered the bench with 18 points, while newly minted Rookie of the Year Justine Arana chipped in 12 points, 6 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block in just 21 minutes.

The Scores

TNT 101 – Castro 23, Oftana 19, Hollis-Jefferson 14, Ponferrada 12, Khobuntin 10, K. Williams 7, Heruel 5, Tolomia 4, Reyes 3, Galinato 2, Cruz 1, Tungcab 0.

Converge 98 – Vodanovich 25, Balanza 18, Arana 12, Racal 10, Tallo 9, Winston 8, Nieto 6, Stockton 6, Melecio 4, Fornilos 0, Wong 0, Maagdenberg 0, Santos 0.

Quarters: 28-22, 56-39, 74-64, 95-95 (reg.), 101-98 (OT).

– Rappler.com

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