MANILA, Philippines - With sore ankles and all, Jason Castro sank the all-important baskets the Talk n Text Tropang Texters sorely needed to get back at the B-Meg Llamados, 104-102, in Game Two of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven titular showdown last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Castro, playing through injuries from last conference, rose with another gallant effort, delivering the biggest plays in a key endgame charge that snatched victory from the fighting Llamados.
Ryan Reyes and Jimmy Alapag also provided emergency support, knocking in pressure-laden free throws to seal the win that forged a one-game deadlock in the series.
“In a duel between two evenly matched teams, it will really boil down to the last possession. Even in Game One, it boiled down to that. That’s how it’s gonna be,” said Talk n Text coach Chot Reyes, on one hand.
“The bottom line was we shot ourselves on the foot. They came back and stole it from us,” said B-Meg coach Tim Cone, on the other hand.
In this game of spurts watched by a crowd of over 11,000, the Tropang Texters squandered an early 14-point spread and waged their own fightback, overcoming a five-point deficit in the last two minutes of the contest.
Castro almost single-handedly carried the TnT back into the fight with five straight points pushing the Texters ahead at 100-99 with 35.7 ticks left.
That remaining time took an eternity to expire as both teams missed and flubbed critical plays.
The Tropang Texters eventually gained more breathing room as Reyes nailed two foul shots following a Denzel Bowles error.
Earlier, Bowles, the leading candidate for the Best Import award, muffed three straight field goal attempts.
As Talk n Text opted for a quick foul, Bowles split from the line and cut their deficit to 100-102 with seven ticks left.
Talk n Text then eventually put the game under wraps on two charities by Alapag.
The Tropang Texters made improvements from the stripe from Game One although they still missed crucial ones – seven in all – in the last two minutes.
“We missed seven, we’ll survive that. Yung last two, sanay na kami so we got the rebound,” said Reyes.
Donnell Harvey missed two at the finish but he converted all his first seven and he wound up with team highs of 29 points and 14 rebounds, practically matching stride for stride Bowles who ended up with 33 points and 13 boards.
Castro finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, with Reyes and Ali Peek combining for 25 markers and nine boards.
The Llamados saw their remarkable 10-of-19 three-points shooting go down the drain.
Josh Urbiztondo pumped in three straight triples to spark a B-Meg rally from a double-digit deficit, and the Llamados trailed by only a point, 48-49, at the half.
The Tropang Texters led by as many as 14, 32-18, early on while riding the hot starts of Harvey and Castro who combined for 28 first-half points.
Castro drove past James Yap then took an interception and scored off a phalanx of B-Meg defenders as the Texters took the opening quarter at 24-16.
The Llamados, however, shook of their sluggish start, uncorking a key run towards the end of the first half to pull even at 45-all.
Urbiztondo banged in three-of-three three-pointers in the second quarter, and the Llamados combined for a 4-of-7 three-point shooting in the first half – a big improvement from their 1-of-8 clip in Game One.
NOTES: Craig Hodges, member of the Chicago Bulls that had a dynastic reign in the NBA in the 90s, was among the huge crowd that watched last night’s game. He was with the group of BEST center founder Nic Jorge…..Petron Blaze is looking at NBA veteran Clinton “Trey” Johnson while Rain or Shine has signed up Jamelle Cornley as import for the season-ending Governors Cup. The Boosters were originally after Alan Anderson before the former Michigan State stalwart was signed by the Toronto Raptors for the remainder of the current NBA season. Anderson was earlier given only a 10-day contract by the Raptors last March 26.
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 - By Nelson Beltran (