JASON Castro and gunner Larry Fonacier made the plays that mattered most in a critical fourth quarter run to lead Talk ’N Text to a hard-earned 101-96 victory over Barako Bull and maintain the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The “Blur” made two big passes taken from the team’s trademark dribble-drive offense, allowing Ranidel de Ocampo and Fonacier to nail the crucial three-point shots that gave the Tropang Texters a 91-84 cushion with under two minutes to go.
Talk ’N Text then converted its last 10 free throws to secure its fourth straight win to open the conference.
“It feels good to get off to a good start in the conference,” said Talk ’N Text coach Norman Black, who was more subdued on the sidelines just two days after being ejected for incurring two technical fouls.
“This is a short conference so it’s important for us to get ahead.”
Black credited their defense in the second half that allowed the Tropang Texters to hold a huge 17-5 advantage in turnover points.
“I give my players the credit on doing a great job, especially on (Joshua) Dollard,” he added.
Dollard, Barako Bull’s high-scoring import, was quiet in the third period before erupting for 14 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter. But his six turnovers hurt the Energy, who dropped at the bottom half of the standings, in a tie with defending champion Alaska at 1-3.
Castro led the Tropang Texters with 25 points and five assists, while import Richard Howell had another 20-20 production of 23 points and 20 rebounds.
Fonacier had his best game for the conference with 16 points, powered by four three-point shots, as he formed a deadline perimeter tandem with Nino Canaleta who had 18.
Barako Bull gunner Ronjay Buenafe had a personal conference-high 18 points, but his three missed free throws late in the game hastened the team’s downfall.
TALK N' TEXT (101) -- Castro 25, Howell 23, Canaleta 18, Fonacier 16, De Ocampo 11, Alapag 6, Williams 2, Aban 0, Reyes 0, Baclao 0, Carey 0.
BARAKO (96) -- Dollard 33, Buenafe 18, Miranda 14, Intal 13, Miller 11, Pennisi 3, Jensen 2, Pena 2, Deutchman 0, Fortuna 0, Marcelo 0.
Quarterscores: 24-30; 45-48; 67-68; 101-96