It took the final minute for TNT to shake off persistent Kia, 90-85, to secure the third seed in the PBA Philippine Cup after a close contest Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
RR Garcia came up big in the clutch and scored on back-to-back layups that gave the KaTropa an 89-83 lead and put the game away with 44 seconds left .
The KaTropa, who improved to 4-3, could not establish a notable margin for much of the game and even trailed the Picanto, 62-58, late in the third quarter.
TNT kicked it into overdrive early in the fourth quarter after Jayson Castro capped off a 23-8 run with a three-pointer that put them up 81-70 with 6:35 left in the game.
“I was saying to my team that Kia is unpredictable and dangerous, I don’t think our players got that message for today’s game,” said TNT head coach Nash Racela. “We were cruising along and Kia really played well.”
Racela added he wanted his players to show that they are the better team, and not just think of the idea.
“I told the team that ‘obviously we’re the better team, I’d like you all to think that you are the better team than Kia but at the same time it’s not just in your minds, you have to show it on the floor.’”
After Kelly Williams gave TNT an 85-77 lead, Jackson Corpuz capped off the Picanto’s 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 85-83 with 1:35 remaining but that proved to be Kia’s last hoorah.
Williams put up a game-high 23 points with eight rebounds to lead TNT wile Castro added 22 points and nine boards.
Rashawn McCarthy led Kia, which is at the bottom of the standings with a 1-6 card, with 21 points and seven assists while Corpuz added 17 points and eight rebounds.