Jayson Castro drilled a huge three-pointer with three seconds left to lift TNT past Magnolia, 93-92, and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven semifinals series in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, Aug. 7.
With Tropang Giga left without a timeout and down by two after Mark Barroca scored on a tough layup to break a 90-all deadlock with 11 seconds left, Castro took matters in his own hands and turned back clock, delivering the booming triple as if he was in his peak form all over again to put a thrilling end to a hard-fought contest that gave the jampacked crowd who braved through the heavy rainfall a worthy treat.
Castro finished with 16 points, six of which came in the final frame as he took the scoring cudgels from Mikey Williams who was limited to his lowest scoring output in the playoffs with 15 markers. JP Erram also held the fort for TNT against the physical Magnolia frontline, posting 22 points and eight rebounds.
“We have no illusions about this being an easy game or series by any stretch of imagination. We knew this going to be a struggle, this is going to be a challenge all the way so even when moments in the ball game when we were down, we just kept poise, stay in the game and stay in what we do,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes who got a huge sigh of relief at the end of the nail-biting win.
It was actually a crazy ending to the nip-and-tuck affair with Castro scoring on an and-1 play to put TNT on the driver's seat, 90-88. The Tropang Giga looked poise to take the victory in the ensuing plays after pulling off consecutive stops if not for their sloppy plays down the stretch, including an uncontested layup which Williams missed that led to a basket for Barroca on the other end to tie the game at 90-all.
“We were able to take advantage of that to grab the lead but we also gave it up with some sloppy plays down in the end but that’s why we love sports, that’s why we love this game. Ito yung sinasabi natin na talo na nanalo pa,” added Reyes.
Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang topscored for Magnolia with 18 and 17 points, respectively, but were badly missed by the Hotshots after both fouling out even before the Coliseum barker announced the final two minutes of the game. Barroca meanwhile finished 15 points, five rebounds and two assists