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PBA: Uichico credits players for title

A career game for veteran forward Ranidel de Ocampo, a near triple-double for Jayson Castro, and a solid performance from import Ivan Johnson carried Talk ‘N Text to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Champion Coach Jong Uichico.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

TNT coach Jong Uichico credited their 121-119 double overtime victory over Rain or Shine to his players who refused to surrender.

“Players not losing poise and composure, they just kept on playing maski pagod sila,” said Uichico.

The 6-foot-5 de Ocampo, who scored a career-high 34 points, was named the PBA Press Corps/Holcim Finals MVP.

Castro also had an MVP-like performance of 24 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

The temperamental Johnson, on the other hand, added 30 points and 11 rebounds, including the game-clinching recovery off an intentional charity miss of ROS guard Paul Lee in the closing seconds of the second extra period.

Larry Fonacier added 12 points, including two pressure-packed free throws in the waning seconds of the second OT, and Jay Washington contributed 10 markers off the bench.

“Masaya na nanalo kami, finally. Matagal tagal na din na hindi kami nakaka-tikim, nakakapag-champion,” said de Ocampo.

By winning its seventh title, TNT moved up to seventh spot in the all-time list of PBA winners and the team’s first since taking the Philippine Cup back in 2013 against the same ROS squad.

Uichico, on the other hand, earned his ninth league trophy as he climbed to No. 4 also in the all-time list behind Purefoods’ Tim Cone’s (18,) legendary Baby Dalupan (15) and Meralco’s Norman Black (11).

It was the first title, however, for Uichico in seven years since he steered popular team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to the 2008 Fiesta Cup over Air21 with a Game 7 victory in front of 23,000 fans.

Uichico also became the sixth coach to win championships with three different teams, having won six with San Miguel Beer, two with Ginebra, and of course this one with Talk ’N Text, which he considers “sweet” just like his other first titles with his former teams.