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Garcia steps up as TNT survives gritty Kia

Kelly Williams led the way for TNT with 23 points. PBA Media Bureau
By Dugout Philippines

PASAY--With star playmaker Jayson Castro hurt and out and Kia proving to be a real threat in the endgame, TNT sorely needed someone to step up.

RR Garcia readily heeded the call with his last-minute heroics, enabling the KaTropa to come out a 90-85 winner over gritty Kia Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Garcia scored all five of the KaTropa's last points, through a drive and an equally nifty reverse, and personally pulled them out of a precarious 85-83 lead.

The explosion was as unexpected as it was timely, coming as it did when Castro slipped and hurt his elbow and had to be taken out following a slip on a slick spot, still 1:35 left.

The former Far Eastern U standout wound up with 13 points. He shot a pedestrian 5-for-15 from the field, but complemented Kelly Williams' 23 points and Castro's 22.

In the end, TNT emerged with its fourth win in seven games, pushing it to fourth-running spot going to its last four games in the eliminations.

The loss was Kia's sixth in seven games, but not after a gutsy performance that belied its status as cellar-dweller as it practically kept pace with TNT for much of the match and even got into position to steal it.

"For me they are unpredictable and dangerous. I don't think our players got that message going to today's game," admitted TNT coach Nash Racela, while personally noting his team almost paid the price for taking for granted a team determined to pull off a surprise.

"Number one, we were coasting along and number two Kia was really playing well," said Racela. "Coach Ricky (Dandan) made some combinations that were really surprising. That's really why we had a hard time tonight."

Indeed, after Castro's triple pegged an 81-70 count, most thought Kia would simply buckle under like it has done in the past.

Not this time. With Rashawn McCarthy and the comebacking Jackson Corpuz doing most of the damage, the Picanto came charging right back and moved to within two after Corpuz turned Castro's slip and lost ball into a fastbreak layup.

Then came Garcia's mini-rampage and Kia's final meltdown that had Eric Camson missing a triple and Corpuz flubbing two charities.

Rashawn McCarthy scored 21 points to go with seven assists and Corpuz, out the last three games due a wrist injury, notched 17 points and eight boards in his first game back.

Sorely missed by TNT was the absence of Mo Tautuua after he suffered from a bum stomach eight on the eve of the match.

The scores:

TALK N TEXT 90 - Williams 23, Castro 22, Garcia 13, Semerad 7, Torres 7, Rosario 6, Pogoy 5, Carey 3, Reyes 2, Onwubere 2, Hernandez 0.

KIA 85 - McCarthy 21, Corpuz 17, Galanza 9, Camson 8, Yee 7, Khobuntin 6, Lastimosa 5, Escoto 5, Tubid 3, Gabriel 2, Sara 2, Ababou 0.

Quarters: 28-24, 42-29, 69-62, 90-85.

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