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MANILA, Philippines – TNT may have lost Jayson Castro but not the fight.
Head coach Chot Reyes lauded the rest of the Tropang Giga for stepping up as TNT claimed a 3-2 lead over San Miguel in the PBA Philippine Cup finals on Wednesday, August 31, despite the exit of Castro due to an ankle sprain.
“The word that comes to my mind is courageous. I thought we fought with a lot of courage,” Reyes said after their 102-93 win in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series.
“We always say that when one man goes down, there is no one person who can fill their shoes. Who can fill the shoes of Jayson Castro, right? But every other person, little by little in their own little way can.”
Castro sustained the injury with eight minutes left in the third quarter after landing on the foot of Beermen guard Marcio Lassiter, who got slapped with a flagrant foul penalty 1.
The TNT veteran managed to knock down both of his free throws, although he did not play the rest of the way as the Tropang Giga banked on Mikey Williams and Kelly Williams to move on the verge of defending their title.
Aside from the Williams duo, several off-the-bench players rose to the occasion for TNT, most notably Poy Erram, Kib Montalbo, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.
Reyes bared Erram suffered a “bad sprain” in practice before Game 5, but he still put up 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Ganuelas-Rosser and Montalbo also provided quality minutes as they combined for 5 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, finishing with notable plus-minus scores of +21 and +14, respectively.
“Jayson [shooting] those free throws took a lot of courage,” Reyes said.
“Everyone pitched in. Kib Montalbo was huge off the bench. I thought Matt Rosser… everyone pitched in to be able to compensate what we lacked with the absence of Jayson.”
It is uncertain, though, whether Castro will be available for Game 6 as he needed assistance while he limped out of the Araneta Coliseum.
The absence of Castro will be a huge blow for the Tropang Giga after he averaged 18.3 points, 4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.5 steals in the first four finals games.
“We have to see what the medical finding is first. We have to go by the science,” Reyes said.
But Reyes and TNT are bracing for every possible scenario as they try to finish off San Miguel on Friday, September 2, at the same venue.
“We have no illusions about it, we know it is going to be a battle, a huge difficult war. So we just have to be prepared. All we can do is prepare ourselves.” – Rappler.com