Veteran player Jayson Castro took over when it mattered most as TNT Tropang Giga draw first blood over a Matthew Wright-less Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, 95-92, during their semifinals encounter in the PBA Philippine Cup last Wednesday at the AUF Sports Arena Powered by Smart 5G.
On top of six rebounds, six assists, and two steals, Castro tallied a team-high 20 points. During the closeout, he scored 12.
“Jayson really stepped up, we really needed his leadership, his decision-making and we’re fortunate he made those very important baskets (in the stretch),” said TNT coach Bong Ravena.
With the absence of Wright, the bubble MVP stats frontrunner was forced out of action by a sprained ankle he sustained halfway through the first canto.
After making his lone basket, Wright, who played in a span of six minutes and 42 seconds, twisted his foot as he landed on Troy Rosario.
Phoenix also soldiered on without Calvin Abueva most of the way as the do-it-all forward got three early fouls and played the stretch with five.
“We know they’re not going to give up, they will stay in the game with their energy so it was important for us to match while maintaining our defense,” said Ravena.
The Tropang Giga pounced on the duo’s absence and seized control in the third, where they opened up a 12-point upper hand at 54-42.
But the no-quit Fuel Masters kept on fighting and even put themselves in a position to steal the first game. Behind the three-pointer of RJ Jazul and the split of Jason Perkins, Phoenix clawed to within one, 93-92 with 7.6 seconds left.
The Fuel Masters fouled Castro, who calmly sank both charities, then they tried to force overtime but Alex Mallari’s heave from the buzzer missed its mark.
Jazul took scoring cudgels in the absence of Wright and fired 21 backed up by Perkins’ double-double of 15-10.
Castro’s production was complemented by the solid outings of Ray-Ray Parks who bucked a slow start and contributed 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals, and one block, and Poy Erram who chipped in a double-double of 15 markers and 14 boards with three dimes, two blocks, and one steal.
Meanwhile, Jazul ended up with 21 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal for Phoenix, which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Perkins added 15 markers, 10 caroms, and three assists.
Tropang Giga will shoot for a 2-0 lead over Phoenix in the best-of-five series on Friday.
TNT Tropang Giga vs Phoenix
Quarters: 16-24; 36-37; 67-61; 95-92.
Tropang Giga (95) – Castro 20, Parks 17, Pogoy 16, Erram 15, Reyes 11, Montalbo 6, Rosario 4, Carey 1, Washington 0.
Fuel Masters (92) – Jazul 21, Perkins 15, Abueva 13, Mallari 13, Garcia 12, Heruela 6, Intal 3, Chua 3, Marcelo 2, Rios 2, Wright 2, Reyes 0, Napoles 0.