TnT Ka Tropa puts away Ginebra, sets title duel against San Miguel Beer

June 17, 2017

INSPIRED by its acknowledged leader and a hurting teammate who played through the pain, TnT Katropa found enough motivation to finish off Barangay Ginebra and seal the remaining berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Getting 38 big points from Jayson Castro and 18 hard-earned markers from injured import Joshua Smith, the Ka Tropa survived a gritty Gin Kings side and a partisan crowd at the Astrodome to hack out a dramatic 122-109 victory in Game Four of their semi-finals series Saturday night.

The Ka Tropa went on a 17-1 rampage midway in the payoff period to turn the game around and finally take the fight out off the top-seeded Kings.

Castro had a huge hands on it as he poured in 10 of his output during that stretch in collusion with veteran big man Kelly Williams, who scored eight of his 14 markers in the run that erased a three-point deficit and put TnT ahead for good, 120-107.

The telecommunication franchise wrapped up the best-of-five series, 3-1 and arranged a showdown with mighty San Miguel in its first final appearance since winning the 2015 edition of this same tournament.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven title series starts on Wednesday.

“Before the game we told him (Castro) he had to be aggressive for us to have at least a chance against Ginebra,” said coach Nash Racela, who disclosed during the post-game presser he had been keeping bible verses with him as notes during the entire duration of the game.

“And alam ko as long as we do the right things and commit to things that we really need to do, good things will happen. And in the end, we survived Ginebra,” he added.

Smith grabbed only five rebounds in 21 minutes of play. He had to be re-taped middle of the third quarter when his injured right foot acted up.

It was while Smith was away when Ginebra overhauled an 86-72 deficit to trail by just three going to the fourth and final quarter.

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The Kings eventually retook the upperhand, 106-103, on an LA Tenorio three-pointer at the 7:39 mark, before their offense conked out at the height of the Ka Tropa’s telling run.

Racela couldn’t say for sure if Smith will be replaced in the finals, although a stand-by import in Mike Myers had been flown in by management early Saturday.

“Knowing how important this game, he decided to play,” said Racela of the 6-foot-10 Smith. “He said, ‘coach I am hurting, but it will hurt me more if I don’t play.”

“And that’s the heart of a champion, and for that, we’re so thankful of Joshua.”

Castro added 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Ka Tropa, who also got significant contributions from RR Garcia (16 points) rookie Roger Pogoy (13), and veteran Ranidel de Ocampo (9).

Japeth Aguilar led the Ginebra charge with 31 points and seven rebounds, while import Justine Brownlee had 25, 15 rebounds, and seven assists.

The Gin Kings, who entered the playoffs as the no. 1 team, failed to advance in the finals after making the championship round of both the Governors and Philippines Cups, respectively.