Jayson Castro came up huge in crunchtime as TNT survived the late fightback from NorthPort to pick up a 117-112 victory for its fourth straight win in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday, June 29, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Castro proved he still got the nerves of steel as he scored four of the Tropang Giga’s last six points including a booming right wing triple which doused the Batang Pier’s searing rally from 12 points down and gave TNT a comfortable four point cushion, 114-110, with 38 seconds left in the clock.
Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy provided the one-two punch for TNT with the former exploding for 27 points on top of seven rebounds while the latter adding 22 markers, five boards and four assists.
However, it was Castro, who finished with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds, delivering the biggest baskets down the stretch when Williams was forced to sit down due to foul trouble and Pogoy cooling down in the final frame.
With the win, TNT improved to a 6-2 record and now virtually clinched a spot in the playoffs.
“Obviously our objective was to get as many wins as possible before we played the giants at the end of our schedule. Pero right now, I think the key, of course, we want to get those Ws but what’s more important to us is to get better and develop our game,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes while also tipping his hat off to the Batang Pier who missed injured leading scorer Robert Bolick.
“They really played very well, they shot the ball well and it’s really hard to defend the team because they play that five out set where everyone can shoot the trey. Those guys played their hearts out. We knew they were going to come out with a lot of urgency. We wanted to match their urgency if there was anything negative for us in this ball game is our defense,” added Reyes.
Malonzo paced NorthPort with 27 points while Sumang, who had to play extended minutes as Bolick sat out for the rest of the game after injuring his ankle in the first quarter, provided support with 24 markers—all of which going to a losing effort as the team absorbed its fourth straight loss for a 2-4 record in the standings
The Tropang Giga banked on a back-breaking 18-4 blast bridging the third and fourth quarters with Castro and Glenn Khobuntin with three consecutive three pointers. Castro picked up where he left off in the final frame as he scored four straight points before a Jjay Alejandro triple built a 12-point, 92-80, advantage for TNT.
The Batang Pier, however l, refused to go down without a fight as Malonzo and Sumang combined for 20 points in the final quarter to cut the deficit down to just one, 111-110, with 50 seconds left before Castro showed poise and restored order for TNT.