JAYSON Castro came up clutch once again, scoring one crucial basket after another to push the TNT Tropang Giga past the resilient Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, 95-92, in Game 1 of the best-of-five semifinals in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday, November 18, at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga.
Castro scored 12 of his 20 points in the payoff period, including a three-pointer, a layup and two free-throws in game’s dying moments that helped lift Tropang Giga to the series-opening victory over a Phoenix squad that fought bravely even without the services of top gun Matthew Wright who sprained his ankle in the first quarter and was not able to return.
Castro added six rebounds, six assists and three steals in what was yet another memorable performance from the seasoned playmaker.
Bobby Ray Parks added 17 points, while Cebuano wingman Roger Ray Pogoy chipped in a near double-double of 16 points and nine rebounds. JP Erram was a beast inside as he compiled 15 points and 14 rebounds.
TNT was up by just one when Castro canned a three-pointer from the top of the arc to push his team to a 90-86 lead with 1:14 to go. A basket by Phoenix forward Calvin Abueva trimmed TNT’s lead to two but Castro responded with a layup after an offensive board that gave the Tropang Giga 92-88 advantage with time down to 26 ticks.
Phoenix guard RJ Jazul pulled the Fuel Masters to one after a corner triple and TNT’s Simon Enciso split his free-throws for a 93-91 TNT lead with just 19 seconds left on the clock.
The Fuel Masters had a shot at tying the game after Jason Perkins was fouled on his drive to the rack. However, the “Hefty Lefty” missed the first and made the second to cut TNT’s lead to one, 92-93. On the ensuing play, Castro was fouled and canned two from the line to push the Giga’s lead to three, 95-92.
Phoenix had a shot at tying the game but Alex Mallari’s three-point attempt missed as time expired.
Jazul led Phoenix with 21 points, while Perkins finished with 15 markers and 10 boards. (JNP)