PBA: TNT downs Ginebra, takes semis opener

MANILA, Philippines - Centers Japeth Aguilar and Dave Marcelo were easily downplayed by TNT’s monster-import Joshua Smith and stole game number 1 from Barangay Ginebra, 100-94, on Sunday, June 11 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Joshua Smith TNT
The 6’10 and 290 pounder Joshua Smith helped TNT won game number 1 over Ginebra with 35 big points. Photo credit: ABS-CBN Sports
It needed TNT Katropa 3 games to qualify to the Commissioner’s Cup semis and where rival conglomerate San Miguel Corporation’s all 3 teams awaited the lone MVP-team. TNT battles crowd favorite and top-seeded Barangay Ginebra for their best-of-five series.

It’s very unusual for a team not to start its reinforcement for this import-laden conference but Coach Nash Racela opted to start Moala Tautuaa instead of Joshua Smith to basically match the quickness and aggression of Ginebra’s starters. Coach Racela’s decision paid off as his team gained an early advantage 15-6 led by rookie RR Pogoy with 10.

Justin Brownlee teamed-up with Japeth Aguilar to catch up with TNT but the 3rd-string guard, RR Garcia managed to sustain what RR Pogoy initially did and posted a double-digit 23-13 lead.

Anthony Semerad, probably the most underrated forward in the league, did a great job in guarding prolific scorer Justin Brownlee since the opener. Semerad had limited Brownlee to just 3 points until the last 4 minutes of the half.

Brownlee finally found his rhythm and added few more points together with LA Tenorio as they tried to trim the lead to a single-digit, 37-45 at the end of the first half.

Both Tenorio and Brownlee continued to wax hot in the beginning of the 3rd period. The Hulking Joshua Smith on the other hand, kept digging his way to the basket and recorded his two-figured numbers.

The 6’10”, 300 pounder Smith became a big problem for Coach Tim Cone. Ginebra was able to bring down the lead down to just 4 but Joshua Smith’s inside presence and effort became a huge factor in TNT’s run to place their numbers up by a dozen again with 7 more minutes left in the third.

No matter how good Smith played in the first 3 quarters, Coach Racela had to give his priced-import a break to preserve his energy for the final period. Pulling out Smith fired back massively at Coach Nash as Ginebra made a 12-0 run and slashed the lead to just 3. Coach Nash Racela had no other option but to send Joshua Smith back in. Smith drained 6 quick points to widen the margin anew.

The penultimate quarter ended well for TNT Katropa as they led Ginebra with 7, 73-66.

Aside from LA Tenorio and Justin Brownlee, Japeth Aguilar and rookie Kevin Ferrer registered their double figures as well and aided Ginebra lessen the margin in the final period.

Seasoned veterans Ranidel de Ocampo and Kelly Williams’ combination helped TNT countered Ginebra’s run while Joshua Smith was on the bench.

Smith had already tallied his 33rd point of the game at 3:24 mark of the ballgame. However, he barely made 3/10 at the free throw line that could’ve given his team an ample lead in the dying minutes of the game.

Ginebra was able to snipped TNT’s lead to just 2 with 2 minutes remaining in the game. RR Pogoy, a newly discovered three point shooter added 3 more to make a 2-possession ballgame. Justin Brownlee however promptly fired back to make it just a 3 point slim advantage.

Jayson Castro gave TNT a winning assurance as he took an open trey 100-94 with just 12 ticks left in game number 1.

Despite the guaranteed three pointer by Castro, game ball went to none other that Joshua Smith who posted 35 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists.

Ginebra will try to bounce back on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the MOA Arena.


TNT 100 - Smith 35, Pogoy 17, De Ocampo 12, Garcia 8, Rosario 6, Semerad 6, Williams 5, Castro 4, Rosales 4, Reyes 2, Carey 0

Ginebra 94 - Brownlee 24, Tenorio 15, Aguilar 15, Devance 10, Ferrer 10, Mercado 7, Thompson 7, Marcelo 4, Ellis 2, Caguioa 0

Quarter scores: 23-13, 45-37, 73-66, 100-94

-- Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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