Texters book Finals berth
With an import standing on only one good foot, TNT KaTropa rode its fleet-footed franchise player practically all of Saturday night to make sure that the flagship teams of the PBA’s two conglomerates will be disputing the Commissioner’s Cup.
Jayson Castro scored 21 of his 38 points in the final half and led the Texters in weathering the storm that was Barangay Ginebra, as a 122-109 victory at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay wrapped up their Final Four series, 3-1, and had TNT advancing to the best-of-seven title series opposite San Miguel Beer.
Under siege all game long from an enemy that was determined to take the series to a decider, Castro got a lot of help from several men as the Texters kept the Gin Kings at bay with a 19-1 run breaking Ginebra’s back for a 122-107 lead with under two minutes left.
It was Castro’s best game in the series and he admitted coming into the crucial encounter with a must-win mentality, knowing that they would be in trouble if the series got dragged into a Game 5.
“I told myself that this is a do-or-die game,” Castro said in Filipino. “We needed to win this game. I just told myself to keep shooting with confidence.”
Import Joshua Smith dragged his 6-foot-9, 330-pound frame for 21 minutes but still shot 18 points.
But it wasn’t the point production that mattered in the game, according to coach Nash Racela.
“What’s really crucial was Joshua Smith sacrificing a lot for the team,” Racela, in his first Finals appearance in just his second conference calling the shots, said. “Knowing how important this game is, he showed the heart of a champion (by suiting up). He’s a warrior.”
Smith, though, might not be there when the Texters play Game 1 on Wednesday against the favored Beermen, with the toe injury forcing the hands of coaching staff and management to sign up Mike Myers.
“We’re ready for any eventuality,” said Racela.
Ginebra gave its most valiant effort only to be overwhelmed by the telling run in the fourth period that had the Gin Kings losing a three-point lead.
Japeth Aguilar stepped up for the Kings, shooting 20 of his 31 in the first half with Justin Brownlee taking over in the third period with 13 of his 25.
But the duo was limited to just nine in a 17-point fourth quarter for Ginebra.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.