Run-and-gun TNT KaTropa speeds past San Miguel Beermen for 2-1 lead

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TNT 98 – SMB 92

Before the semifinals began, PBA Board Members Alfrancis Chua of SMC and Pato Gregorio of TNT were interviewed in an effort to invite fans to watch the games live. Gregorio had a very “aww shucks” tone to his interview. He talked about how happy he was that TNT made it to the semifinals and that his team would give San Miguel a fight in the semifinals. TNT ended up losing game one, 111-98.

Gregorio’s interview mirrored the sentiments of PBA fans. TNT is a talented team. But San Miguel is just in a different class. The Beermen were on a 10-game winning streak heading into the semifinals, demolishing teams in their way. Coach Leo Austria even remarked after the game one win that his team was playing like an orchestra, with each player filling their respective role.

That game one win feels like ages ago. The Ka-Tropa have now won two in a row to take a 2-1 lead in their best of seven series against the Beermen.

San Miguel has been in disarray, especially in the closing moments of the past threef games. TNT is using a proven game plan to beat San Miguel. They’re speeding up the tempo and attacking before the fearsome Beermen defense get’s set. This fast-paced rock and roll attack has really blitzed the San Miguel orchestra.

Castro is the front man of this attack. The Blur hasn’t been able to get his points in the half court set with June Mar Fajardo in the way, but he’s had double-digit assists in TNT’s past two wins. Jayson is constantly pushing the ball and attacking on the break. When he can’t get to his spot on the initial attack, he pulls back and whips quick passes to cutters or shooters getting in position on the secondary break.

The main beneficiaries of this up-tempo pace are Roger Pogoy and Ranidel De Ocampo. The two combined for 46 of the team’s 98 points in their game three win.

Pogoy has found a great role with the team as the natural 3DA successor to Larry Fonacier. The rookie has been getting a lot of playing time, even in the clutch, and so far he hasn’t disappointed. He lurks around the three-point line and lets the play develop. When the ball finds its way to him, he doesn’t hesitate to fire up a three-pointer.

In game three, he got his rhythm with back-to-back treys in the first quarter. He continued to make it rain throughout the game, hitting six shots from outside. His last one was the dagger that gave TNT breathing room to pull out the win.

With less than four minutes left in the game, San Miguel was within three points after Chris Ross stripped the ball from Castro and went all the way for a layup. Castro used a pick to get to the free throw line where he attracted the Beermen defense. He found Pogoy open on the left wing and shoveled a pass to the young gun. Pogoy, with no hesitation, fired up a shot that splashed right in. That shot deflated the Beermen run and gave TNT a 92-86 cushion.

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De Ocampo has been just as crucial as Pogoy. The veteran has been the main scoring option with Castro being hounded by the Beermen defense. He’s adapted his game to fit the faster offense of TNT.

Rather than camp out on the low block for isolation post up moves, De Ocampo has been more active off the ball. He’s using quick flashes to the free throw line for mid-range jumpers or cuts along the baseline to get open for corner three-pointers. He’s also been one of the more reliable finishers on the secondary break. De Ocampo’s eight-point spurt in the second quarter led the team back after being down to start the game.

TNT will continue to attack the Beermen defense from all angles using all the weapons in their arsenal. It’s been De Ocampo and Pogoy in the past two wins. But their other players are getting points off the Beermen defense as well. Right now, the rock and roll attack of the Ka-Tropa is playing beautiful music together.

Video c/o Sports 5’s YouTube channel

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