Still groping for form, TNT gets boost from Jayson Castro
Chot Reyes knew TNT was going to struggle in its first few games in the PBA Governors’ Cup. Jayson Castro, on the other hand, had other plans.
Castro came up huge on Friday to help TNT slip past Alaska, 81-77, in a victory that immediately put the Tropang Giga in the win column after absorbing a narrow loss against NLEX during their conference debut two nights ago.
“We haven’t even had the benefit of tuneup or any kind of practice games,” Reyes said of the Philippine Cup champions after the game at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “We just had to be very patient, I had to be very patient because we expected that kind of a struggle. We just kept at it and found ways.”
But whatever problems bogged down the Tropang Giga, Castro was there to do some throwback troubleshooting. The 35-year-old playmaker scattered his team-best 20 points in the final two frames, effectively erasing an 11-point Alaska cushion while sending TNT to its breakthrough win.
“I just saw the need for me to score, and at the same time I noticed that our import, in a way, has yet to jell with us and coach told me to be aggressive,” said the 13-year veteran, who also added six assists, three steals and a block to his name.
Import McKenzie Moore continue to log lackluster numbers, which frustrates Reyes a bit. But the seasoned mentor pointed out that his American backup—like a handful of his charges—is playing through pain.
“It’s not what you expect from a regular import. The numbers prove that. But to be fair to him, he’s playing on a jumper’s knee. So he’s not a hundred percent. He’s just really trying and forcing, and he’s severely hobbled his ability to move, to jump. He has no lift in his shots. Like I said, we’re just trying our best to get by,” he said.
Moore had 13 points and four rebounds in the contest, as opposed to Alaska counterpart Olu Ashaoulu’s 29 and 18.
It also didn’t help that top gun Roger Pogoy shot blanks and Troy Rosario remain shelved due to the hip injury he suffered last tournament.
Fortunately for TNT, Glenn Khobuntin came through, putting up 16 points off the bench and setting up Castro’s takeover down the stretch.
“It’s better to struggle early since it gives a big window to figure out adjustments,” Castro said. “We really just need—for us locals—not to rely too much on our import. We all have to really produce.”
Jeron Teng chipped in 13 points—the only other double-digit output for Alaska in the losing stand that sent the Aces to a 2-2 slate.
“There’s no way to rush these things,” Reyes said of his team’s chemistry. “We just have to continue playing and making great decisions on the court while everyone gets assimilated and gets into the swim of things.”
“You know our team, we’re not the traditional type that has real strengths. We’re kind of ‘bara-bara,’ all over the place in that sense. For us, it’s really our ability to play off each other, feed off each other,” he added.
But Reyes hopes that it won’t take his charges too long to figure things out.