AGE may be catching up with Jayson Castro, but he proved to all and sundry he remains the main man for Gilas Pilipinas.
And that was obvious enough in the team’s final play when Asia’s two-time best point guard delivered in the clutch for an 89-84 win for the home team against Japan on Sunday in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers at the rocking Mall of Asia Arena.
As Japan closed the gap, 86-84, in the final 30 seconds after trailing by as many 13 points five minutes earlier, coach Chot Reyes put the team's fate in the hands of its most senior player. And he didn’t hesitate to go for the all-important basket that stretched Gilas’ lead to four.
There was no other player in Reyes’ mind on who’s gonna take the last shot for the team.
“Kasi pag ganung sitwasyon, sinabi ni coach na kunin yung bola kasi na feel namin na mas may advantage ako,” said Castro after the game.
The TnT Katropa guard finished with eight points and three assists in limited playing time after returning to the national team from an ankle injury that kept him out of Gilas’ game against Australia on Thursday.
“That’s why we have Jayson,” said Reyes of his top gun. “That’s why we made sure Jayson is in this lineup.”
Castro said he felt fine and hardly showed any effects of the ankle injury.
“Hindi ako 100 percent (pa). Pero sabi ko lang sa coaching staff basta kung ilagay nila ako sa lineup, kung ano ang maitulong ko as one of the veterans at yung leadership para i-guide yung mga young guys,” said the 31-year-old guard from Pampanga.
But sitting out the game against the Boomers, which Gilas lost, 84-68, proved to be a good decision on the part of Gilas’ coaching staff.
“We rested him the last game to make sure he was ready for tonight because he’s our premier closer,” stressed Reyes. “And he came through tonight.”