Scoreless in the first quarter, Castro got all the support he needed last night as the Tropang Texters turned back Rain or Shine, 103-94, to come within a win of capturing the PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
That could come in Game 6 at 5 p.m. tomorrow or in Game 7 on Wednesday, if Rain or Shine still has what it takes to force a winner-take-all match.
But TNT coach Jong Uichico, who expressed his preference for the former, would hear none of a seventh game.
“Buti nanalo, pero di pa tapos,” he said after watching ROS come within five points with less than two minutes remaining. “We should come to Sunday’s game with the same attitude, the same sense of urgency.”
Complacency, Uichico said, should be “farthest” from the Texters’ minds.
“We don’t want to shift momentum back to Rain or Shine,” he said.
There was never any doubt a critical 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series was a key motivation to the Texters.
Fresh from a 33-point effort in Game 4, Ranidel de Ocampo poured 27 this time, an output matched by import Ivan Johnson, who had 10 points in the fourth quarter in keeping the Elasto Painters at bay when they came roaring back.
A driving layup by Lee cut TNT’s advantage to 99-94. But rookie Kevin Alas threw up a high floater over Wayne Chism and ROS saw its last chance go up and in with the shot.
Chism rebounded from a dismal 13-point performance two nights ago with 25 points and 17 rebounds and Lee added 19. ROS, however, was hurt by its 16 miscues from which TNT 14 more points.
Castro finished with 15 points, 12 coming in the middle quarters where TNT opened a 67-47 lead.
A 15-3 run in the second quarter, behind 3-point shots from Castro and Larry Fonacier, erased a 34-32 Rain or Shine edge and sent Talk ‘N Text off to double digit leads, capping the half with 9-0 windup for a 56-42 spread after 24 minutes.
Chism, Lee, and Beau Belga were on the bench when the Texters, who trailed by 10 in the first quarter, surged with a defensive effort that forced bad shots and wayward crosscourt passes as the Elasto Painters failed to summon the form that fueled their strong start.
Lee had 9 points in the opening quarter and Chism 7, but both were stymied by TNT’s aggressiveness and ROS floundered without their top two scorers hitting their strides.
De Ocampo, the hot hand in Games 1 and 4, had 10 points in the first quarter alone, hitting 9 straight in the opening six minutes as TNT rallied from a 21-11 deficit. Fonacier then came through with 7 in a row during a two-minute stretch, setting up the Texters for their second quarter onslaught.
The import matchup also tilted in TNT’s favor after Johnson shook off a 2-of-7 start from the field to finish with 12 points at the half, twice rejecting Chism attempts and resisting attempts to draw him into skirmishes.
Their offense in disarray, the E-Painters committed 10 errors in the first 24 minutes (to TNT’s 2), giving the Texters a 9-0 edge in turnover points. Johnson’s second quarter awakening also helped TNT to a 22-12 advantage in points under the basket.
Officiating regained control of the action.
In the aftermath of the tumultuous Game 4 where three players were ejected after a bench-clearing situation and ROS forward JR Quinahan was eventually suspended, the referees kept a tight lid this time on excessive contacts.
TALK N’ TEXT 103 – De Ocampo 27, Johnson 27, Castro 15, Fonacier 12, Carey 7, Alas 7, Aban 4, Washington 2, Rosser 2, Williams 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 94 – Chism 25, Lee 19, Arana 10, Norwood 9, Teng 6, Cruz Jericho 6, Belga 6, Tiu 5, Cruz Jervy 4, Almazan 4, Uyloan 0, Ibanes 0.
Quarters: 27-29, 56-42, 78-64, 103-94