Even without head coach Chot Reyes, the TNT Tropang Giga is eyeing its second win after pulling off a great escape against the San Miguel Beermen, 86-84, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals series on Sunday, August 21, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 2 is scheduled on Wednesday, August 24, also at the Big Dome.
TNT Reyes with Gilas
Reyes is currently in Beirut with Gilas Pilipinas as the national team plays against 2022 FIBA Asian Cup runner-up Lebanon on August 25 at the Zouk Mikael, Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
His assistant coaches Sandy Arespacochaga and Yuri Escueta will have a big shoe to fill as they try to ride on the momentum of their first game victory and stretch their lead in the race-to-four series.
Reyes said, “Magtutulungan sina coach Sandy, Yuri (Coach Sandy and Yuri will help each other), and even team manager Jojo Lastimosa can pitch in some ideas. It would be a good measure of my coaching ability if my team could perform at a high level without me.”
But the come-from-behind game 1 winner TNT expects an uphill battle ahead as the heartbroken Beermen, who squandered a 15-point lead in Game 1, will try to fight back and level the series.
Roger Pogoy, who top-billed TNT in the game with 26 markers, said Reyes has been building the team for challenging times such as this. Citing that just like the COVID-19 pandemic where nobody knows when who will be gone next, Pogoy said, “We’re ready. We’ll play for the team and coach.”
Reyes, for his part, said he’ll continue to monitor TNT’s second game amid the five-hour difference from Beirut, where the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifier match, pitting the Gilas against the Cedars, will be played.
He and the national men’s basketball team left for Beirut past Tuesday midnight, August 23, and arrived there early morning. Gilas players held their first pre-game practice later in the evening.
The man Jayson Castro
Jayson Castro saved the day for the Tropang Giga with his buzzer-beating pull-up jump shot after beating the clock and Beermen defender Simon Enciso as TNT fans erupted with wild cheers and applause at the Big Dome that drew over 8,000 spectators including Utah Jazz and Gilas Pilipinas star Jordan Clarkson.
Castro delivered when TNT needed him the most despite being fouled up earlier from the foul line. He finished with 15 points as Pogoy top-scored with 26 including four triples and Mikey Williams chipped in 21 with three treys.
San Miguel’s top guy June Mar Fajardo, who led the Beermen charge with 24 points on top of 16 boards and two blocks in the game, said they have to address the problem of relaxing their offense after leading by a huge margin.
“Nire-remind kami lagi ni coach. Kailangan namin i-work out yun (Coach keeps reminding us. We have to work it out),” Fajardo said.
The tight TNT defense limited SMB to just 15 points in the third canto.
Jaymar Perez, who canned 21, was Beermen’s second top scorer while Jericho Cruz added 10.