PBA Philippine Cup

To the rescue: Castro bucks ailing knee as TNT earns playoff berth

Delfin Dioquino

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To the rescue: Castro bucks ailing knee as TNT earns playoff berth

TAKE CHARGE. Jayson Castro in action for the TNT Tropang Giga in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

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Initially a scratch for their final elimination round game in the PBA Philippine Cup, Jayson Castro pulls through as TNT clinches the No. 4 seed in the quarterfinals

MANILA, Philippines – Jayson Castro refused to let his ailing knee prevent him from showing up when his team needed him the most.

Initially a scratch for their final elimination round game in the PBA Philippine Cup, Castro pulled through as TNT clinched its playoff berth by way of a 98-93 win over Magnolia at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on Sunday, May 5.

Castro delivered the big hits and finished with 18 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds to help the Tropang Giga improve to 6-5 and nail the No. 4 seed in the quarterfinals.

“We were really thinking about not playing Jayson, but at the last minute, he said he could go,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes.

According to Reyes, Castro started feeling knee issues when the Tropang Giga hacked out a 104-101 win over NLEX in Candon, Ilocos Sur, on April 13.

His knee problems took their toll on Castro, who got limited to single-digit scoring in the next three games, including a conference-low-tying 4 points in a disappointing 107-103 loss to also-ran Converge last Wednesday.

The defeat to the FiberXers kept TNT from securing an outright playoff spot and put the Tropang Giga in a must-win situation against the Hotshots.

With their playoff fate on the line, Castro opted to play and submitted one of his most well-rounded games of the conference.

Castro scored 4 straight points for a 93-83 cushion then hit a tough jumper with 40 seconds left that gave TNT a 97-88 lead, which proved enough to keep Magnolia at bay.

Aside from Castro, Kelly Williams also rose to the occasion with a season-high 19 points on top of 8 rebounds and 4 assists as the former MVP powered through back issues that caused him to sit out against Converge.

“They’re such a big part of what we do. Today, we had a full Kelly and a full Jayson,” said Reyes. “Hopefully, we can bring this into the next games that we are going to face in the playoffs.”

Brian Heruela stepped up as well with a conference-high 13 points to go with 3 assists and 2 steals, Calvin Oftana produced a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Jewel Ponferada added 10 points in the victory.

Roger Pogoy and Glenn Khobuntin chimed in 7 points apiece for the Tropang Giga, who will tangle with No. 5 Rain or Shine in a best-of-three quarterfinals.

“We really approached this game as the start of the playoffs already. We said let us not wait for the following day or the end, we said this is the start of our playoffs,” said Reyes.

Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang posted 22 and 21 points, respectively, to pace the Hotshots, who fell to 6-5 and found themselves in danger of facing a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals due to an inferior quotient.

The Scores

TNT 98 – K. Williams 19, Castro 18, Heruela 13, Oftana 12, Ponferrada 10, Pogoy 7, Khobuntin 7, B. Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Montalbo 4, Aurin 2, Galinato 2, Varilla 0

Magnolia 93 – Barroca 22, Sangalang 21, Dionisio 14, Dela Rosa 9, Abueva 7, Jalalon 6, Balanza 5, Lee 3, Laput 2, Reavis 2, Tratter 2, Eriobu 0, Mendoza 0.

Quarters: 16-14, 47-36, 80-65, 98-93.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.