Castro shines in the stretch as TNT holds off Phoenix; Barangay Ginebra routs Meralco in semis opener
“The Blur” came to the Tropang Giga’s rescue.
Jayson Castro scored seven of his team’s final 8 points as TNT scraped past Phoenix Super LPG, 95-92, and get the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals off to a thrilling start on Wednesday night at Angeles University Foundation.
Castro had a triple and a layup that put TNT ahead, 92-88, with 26 seconds remaining before draining the game-sealing free throws that gave the Tropang Giga a 1-0 head start in the best-of-five series.
“We’re so glad Jayson stepped up tonight. The leadership, execution and good decision-making are what we needed from him,” said coach Bong Ravena, whose wards dodged trouble when Phoenix big man Jason Perkins, sent to the line for a pair of free throws with his team trailing by two, coughed up a split that kept TNT in the lead, 93-92, seven seconds to play.
“We’re also fortunate [Castro] hit the important baskets,” Ravena added.
In the second game, Barangay Ginebra held Meralco to a single field goal in a seven-minute stretch bridging the middle quarters for a 96-79 rout and a 1-0 lead in their semifinal bracket.
Stanley Pringle had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Kings, who got 13 each from Scottie Thompson and rookie Arvin Tolentino. Thompson also threw in nine rebounds and eight assists for Ginebra, which had six players in double figures and led by as many as 25 points.
Allein Maliksi came off the bench to score 24 points for the Bolts, who made just 39 percent of their shots.
TNT also shot terribly from the field, making just 36 percent of their attempts, but the Tropang Giga had an extra gear in the stretch courtesy of their ace guard, who stepped up when his team needed him the most.
Castro, who has been playing in this tournament despite a bum hamstring, finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists—something the playmaker thought he owed to his team after a shaky start.
“As one of the veterans, I had to show that even after a bad second and third quarters, I was still capable of being aggressive on both offense and defense,” he told reporters here at Smart Clark Giga City.
“And this is the playoffs. It’s important to show up,” Castro added.
Poy Erram, playing in his first-ever semifinals, also made his presence felt, assembling a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Phoenix was handicapped from the 5:18 mark of the first period when its leading scorer Matthew Wright sprained his ankle after a collision with Troy Rosario. To make things worse, the Fuel Masters had to limit do-it-all forward Calvin Abueva’s minutes because of foul trouble.
That made the loss a bit easier to swallow for Phoenix coach Topex Robinson, who saw a lot of encouraging signs from his squad.
“I told the boys, as much as we lost the ball game, there’s still plenty to be excited about,” Robinson said.
“We lost Matt earlier in the game, but we still managed to let it boil down to one possession,” he added. “We gave ourselves a chance to win, which is the most important thing in a series.”
RJ Jazul shouldered much of Wright’s chores, tallying 21 points. Perkins had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Abueva managed 13 and 9.
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