Jayson Castro comes to TNT’s rescue with buzzer-beating winner
The old hands of Jayson Castro gave TNT another dramatic win, this time in a much grander stage than the one he made two Sundays ago.
Castro barely beat the clock and knocked down a long two as the Tropang Giga nudged past the San Miguel Beermen, 86-84, to take a 1-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Sunday.
A crowd of 8,548 inside Smart Araneta Coliseum watched as Castro got Ryan Reyes’ inbound at the center of the arc and dribbled twice against the defense of Simon Enciso before uncorking a shot from 22 feet as time expired.
It took a while for officials to review if Castro took the shot before the red light flashed. Referee Sherwin Pineda eventually signaled at center court that Castro had indeed made it in time.
“It’s up to the referees to make the decision, but I had firm belief that I was able to make an attempt before the buzzer,” Castro later said in Filipino.
Castro’s shot made his heroics in Game 3 of TNT’s semifinal series against Magnolia seem ordinary: “The Blur” drained a three-pointer in the dying seconds to prevail, 93-92.
“There were two options there,” TNT coach Chot Reyes later said when asked of the winning play. “Number one, you have to be open and number two, with 1.6 [seconds left] you can have [at least] one more dribble.
“This is something we practice all the time; but in the end, it was great that Jayson made the shot.”
Reyes, however, was more thrilled with the previous play, when TNT forced San Miguel to commit a 24-second violation.
San Miguel had come back to tie the count at 84-all on Vic Manuel’s three-point play, less than a minute left. TNT went empty-handed on the next play and San Miguel went to June Mar Fajardo in the post.
But Kelly Williams made sure Fajardo was far enough from his sweet spot and the gentle giant forced a pass to CJ Perez, who fired an attempt from downtown that didn’t hit the rim, resulting in a 24-second infraction.
“We gave ourselves a chance; we gave ourselves a crack at it,” said Reyes, who got a fitting sendoff before heading to Beirut, Lebanon, to handle Gilas Pilipinas for the fourth window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Reyes won’t be around for the next two games, beginning with Game 2 on Wednesday at the same venue with TNT looking to make it two in a row over San Miguel.
Castro had 15 points to finish the job started by RR Pogoy and Mikey Williams, who engineered a TNT comeback from a 12-point halftime deficit in front of NBA cager and Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson and his entourage left during the fourth quarter, but not before seeing the Tropang Giga take the lead with Pogoy and Williams combining for 22 in the third. Pogoy finished with 26 points for the night while Williams added 21.
It was a stunning turnaround for TNT after it looked lost in the first half, where Fajardo dominated by dumping 14 of his 24 points before the break. INQ