After three tries, TNT was finally able to solve the puzzle that was San Miguel.
The KaTropa escaped with an 87-85 victory over the Beermen to level the best-of-7 semifinals series at 1-1 on Friday, giving them the confidence against the defending champions with still a long series ahead.
“At least, our confidence is there again. It’s all we want to do, to win one, then let’s see. We know San Miguel is a strong team, so to beat them, we all need each other,” said Jayson Castro.
TNT lost to San Miguel, 98-94, in heartbreaking fashion in their eliminations match last January 28 thanks to an Alex Cabagnot go-ahead three, and was again humiliated, 111-98, last Wednesday in Game 1, where Marcio Lassiter caught fire and poured 22 points.
But it was a whole different story on Friday with the KaTropa’s defense containing the Beermen snipers and forcing them to a woeful 7-of-26 shooting from three.
Castro had a near triple-double with 10 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds and was crucial in the clutch for TNT after San Miguel roared back and took an 82-80 lead with four minutes left to play.
The KaTropa also shut down clutch performer Cabagnot in the end game, forcing him to give up the ball, and prevented Arwind Santos from making a game-winning attempt in the final 6.2 seconds.
“We gambled to trap Alex so that he will give up the ball and it bore fruit. Again, it’s our one-on-one defense because we know that when it’s in the dying minutes, Cabagnot can shoot that ball,” he said.
Castro said the KaTropa will bring in the same mindset when the two teams clash again on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We can’t afford to be on in the first and second quarters, then be off in the third quarter. We can’t make too much mistakes because once we do that, San Miguel will run away from us,” he said. “We just have to give our team a chance to be always there in the end.”