By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
TNT Tropang Giga’s Jayson Castro once again played hero ball and took matters into his own hands after burying the buzzer-beating game-winner to take Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup finals against the San Miguel Beermen, 86-84.
With the score knotted at 84-all with 1.6 seconds left in the game, Castro caught the ball from the top of the key, took two dribbles to get into his spot at the left elbow, and fired the perimeter shot just in time to give the Tropang Giga the come-from-behind win.
It was a low-scoring game as both teams were off grueling semifinal series with TNT escaping Magnolia in six games while the Beermen needed seven games to oust Meralco.
San Miguel took the first lead of the game after Jericho Cruz got hot in the first half backstopped by June Mar Fajardo who was again unstoppable in the shaded lane.
Fajardo was on fire from the get-go and hit four wide-open perimeter jump shots to fire up his squad and helped San Miguel balloon its lead to 15 points, 45-30, in the last two minutes of the second frame.
Disaster then struck San Miguel in the third quarter as the TNT offense suddenly came alive, clinching their highest-scoring quarter with 33 points compared to SMB’s 15-point quarter.
The duo of RR Pogoy and Mikey Williams provided the much-needed spark during that fiery run and schooled every Beermen defender thrown at them.
From being down 12 points entering the second half, it only took six minutes for the Tropang Giga to deadlock the ball game at 53-all after Poy Erram’s basket underneath.
The crafty Williams then took over in the last five minutes of the third, scoring 11-straight points to give TNT a six-point lead entering the final canto, 70-64.
TNT looked to blow the game wide-open after establishing a 10-point lead in the fourth, 79-69, but the Beermen came back roaring and trimmed the deficit to just three points, 84-81, off a Fajardo jumper with 1:30 remaining in the game.
Vic Manuel then answered the call for the Beermen after completing a foul-counted play to even things up at 84-all with 51 seconds left.
However, the Tropang Giga made two winning plays in the clutch stretch to seal the win: The first was their excellent defensive stop to deny SMB of another scoring opportunity and the last was Castro’s buzzer-beater to take care of business in Game 1.
TNT was led by Pogoy with 26 big points, Williams with 21, and Castro with 15 while the Beermen was top-scored by Fajardo with 24 points and CJ Perez with 21.