Arvin Tolentino struck the biggest shot that propelled a NorthPort side to stun TNT with a 128-123 overtime win on Friday, a result that could bode well moving forward for the Batang Pier in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup. Tolentino said. “It feels good because it was well-defended and it came at a crucial part of the game,” after the Batang Pier snapped a two-game skid and rose to 3-2 in the season-opening conference at Philsports Arena in Pasig City. Tolentino’s contested trey off Glen Khobuntin entering the final minute of extension made it 125-119 for NorthPort and doomed TNT to a 2-3 record after a second consecutive defeat despite another high-scoring effort from import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. “I wasn’t able to get some shots in overtime, but credit to Fran Yu for finding me,” added arguably NorthPort’s main man, who has played four of the five games off the bench. NorthPort bounced back from a 28-point defeat to Magnolia and a tough loss to NLEX. The Batang Pier plays Converge next on Dec. 6. Speaking of Yu, he was one of two rookies coach Bonnie Tan decided to gamble on during the crucial parts of the contest, and his former skipper for NCAA champion Letran delivered.
Yu had the longest playing time of his young PBA career, logging in almost 31 minutes and finished with 14 points and six assists. His three-pointer despite the challenge of Hollis-Jefferson capped off seven straight points to start overtime after regulation play ended at 113-all. Cade Flores was the other rookie Tan asked to bang bodies with Hollis-Jefferson for most of that stretch, and his play on both ends resulted in 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. “To win against TNT, we had to outrun them,” said Tan in Filipino. “We know that they’re rookies, but we know that they’re better fit to be on the court” Hollis-Jefferson scored 35 points that went with 13 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks in another big performance. But he turned the ball over six times, some of them coming at the worst time possible for the Tropang Giga.
TNT has an East Asia Super League game on tap next week before resuming their PBA duties on Dec. 13 against NLEX.