Texters topple Kings
The never-say-die stand came from TNT KaTropa in Game 4 of its semifinal duel with the normally unsinkable Barangay Ginebra and the reversal of roles Saturday rewarded the Texters with a richly deserved title showdown with the San Miguel Beermen in the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup starting this Wednesday.
With Jason Castro spearheading a sizzling TNT finish, the Texters and their injured man mountain of an import Joshua Smith humbled the Gin Kings, 122-109, to close out the best-of-five Final Four series at 3-1, the same slate the Beermen achieved in ousting the Star Hotshots in their own series.
Castro flashed his deadliest form in the playoffs in firing a game high 38 points while the
6-foot-9, 330-pound Smith, playing on one good leg while briefly going in and out of the game after injuring his right foot in Game 3, still contributed 18 points and five rebounds.
Smith left the game for good halfway through the last quarter after touching off TNT’s deadliest burst of 17-1 while trailing at 103-106. That strong finish eventually doomed Ginebra, the top team in the eliminations and losing finalist to SMB in the Philippine Cup early last March.
Kelly Williams ably took over from Smith by unloading eight of his 14 points down the stretch while Castro finished off the Kings with his last seven points, including his fifth triple in eight attempts for the night. RR Garcia, earlier traded by SMB to TNT, was also a factor with 16 points.
“Our focus and composure helped us through,” said rookie coach Nash Racela after the Texters, who survived a knockout game against sister team Meralco in the quarterfinals, gained a shot at matching their 2015 Commissioner’s Cup title run.
Whether Smith would be fit in the finals after a three-day rest remains a big question mark but the Texters have already flown in a possible replacement in Mike Myers who was in the gallery Saturday. Had the Kings force a do-or-die Game 5 Monday, Myers would have been tapped to replace Smith, whose jersey number (34) was printed on a small patch that was pinned on the players’ uniforms to honor the big import’s decision to play Game 4 despite his injury.
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