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Castro sizzles late as Talk ‘N Text eliminates Purefoods; will battle RoS in Finals



Down by a small margin entering the fourth period, Jason Castro caught fire late as he scored 13 points in the final period to help Talk ‘N Text cruise against Purefoods, 79-66 to clinch their semifinals series held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.

With a minor tweak of a change in the starting lineup for Purefoods, they started with Justin Melton on the point guard position who knocked down the game’s opening basket. Looking to stop TNT’s offense, Melton guarded Jason Castro, who dished out four straight passes on successive possessions but all four Texters missed their three pointers.

Ivan Johnson scored the first bucket for Talk ‘N Text after being silenced for the first three minutes of the match. However, Purefoods’ shooting was no better as they missed their mid-ranged jumpers in the opening period. Castro then broke the dry spell from downtown by burying two-straight threes to give the lead to his squad, but Denzel Bowles responded with jumpers to tie things up. The defensive-themed opening quarter ended up with a Joe Devance long-two heave at the buzzer to give the Star Hotshots a two point edge at the end of one.

Both teams had an all-Filipino lineup to start the second period that went in favor of Purefoods, as Alex Mallari and PJ Simon extended their lead to eight at 32-24. Six minutes in the second, both imports were fielded in but the Star Hotshots maintained their hot streak on defense. TNT settled for quick offense and three pointers but Purefoods’ transition defense and recovery on the break was on point that gave the Texters a hard time executing their offense.

Despite the low-scoring affair compared to last game’s offensive showdown, Mark Barroca swished in two more jumpers late in the first half to give them a 10-point separation. Barroca led the Hotshots in the first 24 minutes as he scored all of his nine points in the second frame.

Purefoods started the second half cold as the committed several turnovers to help the Texters come back into the ball game. Talk ‘N Text built a 12-0 rampage on the third quarter’s first five minutes including 10 from Jason Castro. Castro single-handedly brought back the momentum for TNT as he sizzled and punched in two triples against the Purefoods defense.

Bowles delivered the first points of the Hotshots with almost six minutes in the third but was quickly countered by a corner trey by Ranidel de Ocampo. Simon was re-deployed in the court that gave offense for Purefoods as they got the lead anew at 48-45. With three minutes left in the third, the crowd got into the game as the match displayed a frantic pace with teams exchanging missed shots and defensive plays.

Scoring started to pick up in the fourth with Allain Maliksi and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser trading baskets in the first minute. TNT held to the lead at 51-50 but Joe Devance scored on back to back triples from the wing. Minutes later with the score knotted at 59, good ball movement from top of the key results to a wide-open triple from Johnson gave the lead once again for TNT.

With less than four minutes to play, Castro scored TNT’s next eight points to give them a double-digit spread. With full momentum on the Tropang Texters side, the stunned Purefoods squad went empty in their succeeding possessions as TNT books the ticket to the Commissioner’s Cup finale.

Castro scattered in a whopping 33 points including seven triples. He also dished out four assists and grabbed five boards.

Talk ‘N Text will battle Rain or Shine in the Finals. Game 1 of the series will be played on Wednesday, 7pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The scores:

Talk ‘N Text (79) – Castro 33, Johnson 15, Washington 12, De Ocampo 12, Fonacier 4, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Alas 1, Aban 0, Williams 0

Purefoods (66) – Bowles 14, Barroca 12, Devance 10, Pingris 8, Simon 6, Mallari 5, Melton 5, Yap 2, Reavis 2, Maliksi 2, Pennisi 0

Quarters: 16-18, 28-38, 45-48, 79-66

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