|Jayson Castro put up crucial baskets to keep the Tropang Giga afloat. PBA Images|
MANILA--TNT escaped a late run from Phoenix to open the PBA semifinals with a 95-92 win on Wednesday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
The Tropang Giga recovered from a slow first quarter by holding the Fuel Masters to just 13 points in the second quarter and dropping 31 in the third to take a 67-61 lead to the fourth period.
Phoenix, despite missing Matt Wright the rest of the way and Calvin Abueva affected by foul trouble, crawled back in the fourth quarter and even tied the game in some occasions, the last at 81-all with four and a half minutes left.
TNT quickly retook the lead and kept Phoenix at bay with crucial baskets, including a booming triple and a layup in succession from Jayson Castro that gave his squad a four-point cushion with 26 seconds left.
RJ Jazul put up a clutch triple that brought the Fuel Masters to within one, 91-92, with 20.1 seconds left.
They then got a chance to tie the game as Simon Enciso only made a split from the line with only 19 seconds to play.
Jason Perkins found the golden opportunity for the equalizer as he was fouled with 6.7 seconds left, but he only made a split from the line and Phoenix was down one, 92-93.
Castro, who was quickly fouled with 5.3 seconds left, then made two free throws to up the lead to three.
Alex Mallari had last crack to force overtime, but his three pointer only hit the back rim as time expired.
Castro finished with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists, and two steals off the bench for TNT, which took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Ray-Ray Parks bucked a slow start and contributed 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals, and one block.
Poy Erram chipped in a double-double of 15 markers and 14 boards with three dimes, two blocks, and one steal.
Jazul ended up with 21 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal for Phoenix, which saw its five-game winning streak snapped.
Perkins added 15 markers, 10 caroms, and three dimes.
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