Talk ‘N Text needed five extra minutes to recover its bearing after blowing a huge 24-point third-quarter lead, leaning on the endgame baskets of Jason Castro and Jared Dillinger to hack out a 112-110 overtime win on Friday night in the Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Castro scored four of the Tropang Texters' last six points, including two pressure-packed foul shots with 14.5 ticks to play. Meralco star playmaker Sol Mercado had an opportunity to send the game into a second overtime, but he fumbled the ball away in the final play.
By the time he recovered the leather, Larry Fonacier was there to prevent Mercado from getting a clear shot at the basket, thus, preserving Talk ‘N Text’s first victory in its bid for a third straight all-Filipino title.
“I felt relieved, siyempre, nanalo kami eh,” said coach Nash Racela, who’ll be handling the Tropang Texters in their first two games at least while Norman Black is still busy coaching the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP Finals.
“Going into this game, ang objective namin is to win. Regardless, yun ang bilin ni coach Norman eh. You can do anything with regards to game plan and adjustments. Bahala kayo diyan sabi niya (Black),” added Racela.
The Texters were outscored, 17-3 in the final five minutes of the regulation period as the Bolts went on to send the game into overtime.
Regulation period ended at 99-all as Meralco slotman Jay-R Reyes scored on a clean undergoal stab off Mercado’s drop pass, 3.1 ticks left in the fourth quarter.
Racela later paid tribute to the Bolts’ pesky defense and strong resolve to come back.
“We were struggling in the fourth quarter because Meralco was able to adjust defensively. But we were able to make stops in overtime. The only problem lang was we were stopping their plays, but we were giving up offensive rebounds. Kaya dun sila nakahabol,” said Racela.
The Tropang Texters played without former league MVP Jimmy Alapag, who was scratched out of the lineup late Friday after opting to rest his strained left calf.
But Alapag is expected to suit up for his first game in the 38th season against Global Port on October 12.
Both Talk `N Text and Meralco failed to take care of the ball as the Texters committed a total of 24 turnovers, while the Bolts had 21.
The Bolts however, clawed their way back as they beat the reigning champions off the boards, 62-51.
The 6-foot-6 Reyes led Meralco in crashing the boards with 14, adding to his 25 points, two steals, and a block in 32 minutes of action as he ably filled the hole left by former Bolts star Asi Taulava, who has moved to the ABL.
Dillinger led all TNT scorers with a fine all-around game of 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Casto finished with 16, three boards, and five dish-offs.
Mercado, on the other hand, provided help offensively for the Bolts with 20 points and seven assists, even as Fil-Am rookie Cliff Hodge gave a good account of himself in his league debut by finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.
Hodge however, still had to work on his free throw shooting after going just 3-of-9. He missed two critical free throws in the 1:34 mark of the extra session, which could have changed the complexion of the game.
The other half of Meralco's two-guard combo, Mac-Mac Cardona had a rather quiet offensive night, finishing with just seven points on 2-of-6 fshooting. He committed a total of six turnovers.
Meantime, Talk ‘N Text forward Harvey Carey became the 38th player in the league to make the elite 2,000-rebounds club. The 10-year veteran grabbed the 2,000th defensive rebound of his career during the 3:44 mark of the first period.
The burly 6-foot-2 Tropang Texter banger finished the game with 11 points and seven boards before fouling out in overtime.
Talk 'N Text (112) - Dillinger 20, Castro 16, Reyes 12, Williams 11, De Ocampo 11, Carey 11, Peek 10, Raymundo 8, Fonacier 8, Gamalinda 5
Meralco (110) - Reyes 25, Mercado 20, Hodge 19, Buenafe 18, Salvacion 8, Ross 7, Cardona 7, Hugnatan 6, Belencion 0, Sharma 0
Quarter scores: 33-20, 53-43, 86-64, 99-99, OT 112-110