Jayson Castro wasn’t about to let a busted ankle get in the way of playing hero, not with his team less than two minutes away from going down 0-2 in Commissioner’s Cup finals.
The shifty point guard, who was doubtful before the game due to a bothersome ankle injury that should have been operated on months ago, scored six straight points in the last 1:38, including the go-ahead triple with 35 seconds left, and the Tropang Texters hung on for a 104-102 win that knotted the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
“Since the last conference Jayson was scheduled for a procedure on his left ankle,” explained TNT Coach Chot Reyes. “He has three strained ligaments in his ankle. He’s just playing on guts.”
No play was gutsier than the three-point bomb Castro nonchalantly dropped in front of Jonas Villanueva that pushed TNT in front, 100-99, and capped his personal 6-0 run over a 63-second span. But with still 35 seconds left, a lot could still happen. And a lot did. Or didn’t.
First, Denzel Bowles missed a gimme jumper from five feet away. Donnell Harvey grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 22 seconds left. The TNT import had been perfect at the line up to that point, but he missed both to keep it a one-point game.
Off a B-Meg timeout, James Yap, in the midst of a sterling 25-point performance, inexplicably took a contested baseline shot as soon as he received the inbounds pass and hit nothing but the side of the backboard.
Kelly Williams gathered the errant shot and drew a foul with 15 seconds left, and just like Harvey before him, he also missed his two free throws. Bowles came up with the rebound, and instead of calling for a timeout, spotted PJ Simon unmarked and streaking towards B-Meg’s basket. But his pass was deflected, and TNT regained possession. Ryan Reyes was fouled, and this time he coolly sank both free throws to give the Tropa a three-point lead with only eight seconds left.
B-Meg still had a chance, but TNT chose to foul and sent Bowles to the line. The ploy paid off as Bowles split his free throws. Jimmy Alapag added two more free throws with four seconds left to ice the game.
TNT’s closing 10-3 run capped a game of spurts by both teams. The Texters ran off to an early 11-2 lead before the Llamados came back with a 13-2 blast to move ahead. TNT responded with a 19-3 run that bridged the first and second periods to establish the biggest lead of the game at 32-18, but B-Meg again came charging right back and tied it up at 45.
It was close the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than six points. B-Meg appeared to have grabbed the upper hand for good after Joe Devance hit a difficult jumper with 1:38 left that made it 99-94. But Castro scored on a quick drive to the basket, Harvey blocked Bowles, and Castro split his free throws that made it 99-97 for B-Meg. Bowles missed a soft shot in the lane, setting up Castro’s huge triple that pushed TNT ahead for good.
“I was mentally and emotionally ready for B-Meg to keep coming back,” Reyes said. “They have a hell of a team, a hell of an import. I told my players to relax. Today we had only seven turnovers. In a series between two evenly matched teams, it always boils down to almost one possession.
“All we did today was tie the series. Let's see if we can get a step ahead in Game 3. In the end we have to play 48 minutes of full basketball. We need to be able to play with full concentration.”
B-Meg Coach Tim Cone felt bad about blowing a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead, and lamented his team’s mistakes in the last few seconds.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “They stole the game from us. We overcame a lot and had the game under control but we just couldn’t get that last basket. We missed that hurried shot by James, and Denzel threw the ball away. But it’s over and done with. We’ll get refocused.”
TALK N' TEXT (104) - Harvey 29, Castro 23, Reyes 13, Peek 12, Williams 8, Dillinger 6, De Ocampo 6, Fonacier 4, Alapag 3, Gamalinda 0, Carey 0.
B-MEG (102) - Bowles 33, Yap 25, Urbiztondo 15, Simon 10, Pingris 9, Barroca 4, Devance 4, De Ocampo 2, Intal 0, Villanueva 0, Reavis 0.
Quarterscores: 24-16, 49-48, 73-75, 104-102