THE kind of pesky game NorthPort coach Bonnie Tan wanted from his youthful players finally surfaced and started bearing fruit when the Batang Pier beat TNT, 99-90, in the PBA On Tour Friday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Joshua Munzon frolicked in his role as a starter for the first time in the pre-season, emerging with 16 points while anchoring NorthPort's pressure defense with three of the team's total 11 steals, four of those coming in the fourth period.
"We were just trying to play harder and harder and leave it all out there. I think it showed in the second half, coming up with those steals and making them turn the ball over a lot of times," said the former No. 1 overall draft pick who went into the game averaging just 2.5 points.
"We just stuck to the gameplan and... we came up with the win," added Munzon, before baring what he and the rest of the team's intentions are moving forward in the pre-season presented by Arena Plus and sponsored by Bingo Plus.
"Just taking every opportunity and trying to get better. Every opportunity to come out here is an opportunity to get better and we just want to build on it going to the (regular season)," stated Munzon.
"We just want to build and hopefully have some momentum going into that, you know. Build our chemistry and really get going."
MJ Ayaay, JM Calma and Fran Yu also played crucial roles in the victory, the Batang Pier's first in three tries, as they all helped during a decisive 15-2 windup that razed an 84-88 deficit.
TNT started its pre-season by playing minus the likes of main weapons Jayson Castro, Mikey Williams, Calvin Oftana, Roger Pogoy and Kelly Williams and also did not use prospect JV Gallego.
Glenn Khobuntin, Carl Bryan Cruz and Poy Erram ably manned the fort, while coach Sandy Arespacochaga, calling the shots with head coach Jojo Lastimosa in the stands, gave former San Beda players Clifford Jopia, Damie Cuntapay and Peter Alfaro playing time.
For a long while, the ploy worked as the KaTropa led by as much as 38-28 and kept the Batang Pier at bay by taking a 69-65 lead into the fourth quarter.
But by then the tide has clearly turned, starting when Erram went down with a knee injury before the midway point of the third that took away a vital cog in TNT's game.
NorthPort was quick to pounce with Ayaay scoring 11 of his 15 points in the fourth and Munzon able to repeatedly slice his way inside for eight of his own to spearhead the Batang Pier's homeward surge. (NC)