In the fourth quarter of Game Two of the PBA finals, and with Talk ‘N Text down three points, “The Blur” Jayson Castro streaked down the court like, well, a blur.
He took to the air with B-MEG forward Joe DeVance to beat, and made just the slightest of contact, enough to draw the referee’s whistle. Unfortunately, Castro seemed to lose his legs from under him and took a nasty spill that had him crumpled on the floor.
It was a big blow for the Tropang Texters, who led by as much as 14 points early in the game but were now staring at a deficit with under two minutes to play.
Castro, after a bit of a delay, shrugged off the pain, trooped to the line and knock down one of two free throws. Getting up from a bad fall and playing through the pain is nothing new for the two-time co-finals Most Valuable Player.
“Since the last conference, Jayson was scheduled for a procedure on his left ankle,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes. “He has strained ligaments in three different parts of his left ankle.
“In the last game, I think it was the third quarter, when he drove, bumagsak siya. Kaka-favor niya ng left, natapilok rin yung right ankle niya.
“So you know, he’s just going, really, on guts.”
Castro led the locals in scoring for the game, just as he has all tournament long despite nagging health issues. He has 13.9 points alongside 3.3 assists in the Comissioner’s Cup, and he eclipsed those averages in Game Two.
“We had a long talk yesterday in practice and I said ’Jayson, sabihin mo kung hindi mo kaya because we’ll get others to play your spot.’ Sabi niya ‘Hindi, I’m not 100 percent, coach, pero gusto kong makatulong,’” said Reyes.
Just before the fall, Castro finished on a strong drive to the basket to up his game total to 19 points and cut the Llamados’ advantage down to just three points. After his split from the line and a Talk ‘N Text stop on the next B-MEG possession, Castro got an isolation near the top of the key, faked a drive, and pulled up for a big three-pointer that gave his team back the lead.
Six straight points for Castro, and just like that, the five-point B-MEG lead was gone and the Tropang Texters were once again in the driver’s seat with just 35.7 seconds remaining in the game.
“What more can you say? He’s just a warrior,” said Reyes.
Castro finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists in just 28 minutes of play.
“We’re trying to manage his minutes,” said Reyes. “And hopefully reserve him, like today, in the game where he would be quote-unquote a lot fresher than normal.”
Though his 28 minutes were the most for any Talk ‘N Text local, three B-MEG players – James Yap, Marc Pingris and Peter June Simon – were in the game for 35 minutes or more. Both imports, Donnell Harvey and Denzel Bowles, played 39 minutes.
Reyes, though, refuses to name Castro’s health, or anyone else’s, as an issue moving forward.
“Like always, it’s going to be a battle of attrition,” said the coach. “Nobody’s 100 percent healthy at this point. We just have to suck it up and find ways.”
If Castro keeps playing like he did in Game Two, finding ways could be a whole lot easier.
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