Jayson Castro could only concede after TNT witnessed the end of its reign as ruler of the PBA Philippine Cup after bowing to San Miguel, Sunday night.
“Lumaban naman kami hanggang huli,” offered the ‘Blur’ moments after the Tropang Giga’s 119-97 defeat in the Finals’ Game Seven at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
“Pero siyempre, ang lakas talaga nila e. Kitang-kita naman.”
The flagship MVP franchise did give its corporate rival the fits early on, with the 36-year-old carrying his side in the winner-take-all despite nagging ankle woes and a hurt shoulder following a bad contact during the third quarter.
“Maraming masakit, pero kailangan maglaro talaga eh. At the same time, ‘yun nga, tulungan ‘yung team in a way na kaya kong tulungan,” he said.
Castro went on to finish with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, putting on a Herculean effort in an attempt to save a squad that was without head coach Chot Reyes and, later on, center Poy Erram.
His long-time mentor was out due to health and safety protocols, and it didn’t help that TNT lost one of its top bigs when the 6-foot-8 center got ejected with 55 seconds left in the first half after an F2 on Mo Tautuaa.
“Malaking bagay, siyempre. Pagdating sa mga adjustments at saka motivation,” he said. “Siyempre, marami siyang alam. So malaking bagay. Pero nandiyan siya or wala siya, nagi-step up naman ‘yung ibang coaches para ssa kanya.”
But even without two key figures, the Tropa still made it a difficult night for SMB. In fact, they headed into the final frame up 89-84 following a 34-point blast in the quarter prior, 19 of which coming from Castro alone.
Then again, their foes found another gear come the deciding chapter. They opened it up with 17 unanswered points for a 101-89 lead with 7:20 left, and the momentum completely shifted on the side of San Miguel.
Not long after, the Beermen faithful that were part of the 15,195 fans that trooped to the Big Dome erupted in celebration as the league’s winningest franchise went on to reclaim the title they once held for five years.
“Kahit ma-stop sila, lagi silang may pang-counter. So, sobrang congratulations sa San Miguel, kasi deserve nila mag-champion talaga,” Castro said.
With the conference done, the Kapampangan star and the rest of TNT now have their sights set on recuperating before the Commissioner’s Cup. But they won’t be forgetting this loss sooner or later as they gun for redemption.
“Learning experience para ulit sa amin ‘to, para next championship may paghuhugutan kami.”
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.