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PBA: Castro, TNT beaten but unbowed

By Jerome Lagunzad

Once the final buzzer sounded and the white confetti rained down on the triumphant San Miguel Beer squad last Sunday night, TNT star Jayson Castro immediately headed to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum hallway with a towel draped on his head.

He stood in front of the team’s dugout and waited for his fellow KaTropa, slapping hands with each of his teammates and members of their coaching staff, most of them in low spirits.

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TNT fell prey anew in its latest head-to-head matchup with archrival San Miguel Beer, but the 5-foot-10 Castro is convinced the KaTropa can get themselves back to the Promised Land —s ooner than later.

“Darating at darating rin kami du’n,” he admitted, believing there’s a silver lining in the horizon for TNT despite a 91-115 loss in Game 6 that enabled San Miguel Beer to clinch the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title—its first since 2000—and keep itself on track for the proud franchise’s second Grand Slam feat.

Although they failed to avenge their semifinal loss to the Beermen back in the season-opening Philippine Cup, the KaTropa still have ample reasons to be pleased since they continue to make steady progress under first-year coach Nash Racela.

“‘Every conference, nag-i-improve talaga kami. ‘Yung core ng team, nagiging maganda,” stressed Castro, adding TNT’s young Turks – led by rookie Roger Pogoy, forward Troy Rosario and new acquisition RR Garcia – made a good account of themselves against what he considers a “superteam” in SMB.

“Magandang sign para sa amin ‘yun. Ibig sabihin, nakakapag-adjust na talaga agad sila sa sistema ni coach Nash. ‘Yung ganitong experience, madadala nila ‘to sa susunod na mag conferences.”

But not this time against a highly-potent SMB team, built around arguably the most talented all-Filipino crew backed up by American Charles Rhodes, who emerged as the mid-conference Best Import winner.

“Lahat naman ginawa namin. Kaso superteam lang talaga sila. Kahit sino sa kanila, pwedeng umiskor. Maganda rin ‘yung naging depensa nila,” admitted Castro, who scored just 13 points and accounted for six of the team’s 21 errors in Game 6 loss.

Still, Castro is ready to move on quick. “Magandang lesson para sa amin ‘tong pagkatalo na ‘to. Every conference, tina-try naman namin na makapasok sa finals. Sana sa next conference o sa susunod, makuha na namin ‘yung championship,” he said.