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Vets take charge anew as TNT on verge of ousting SMB

Kelly Williams of TNT KaTropa during the PBA semifinals Game Five at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. | PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — TNT KaTropa’s trusted veterans came through in the crunch once again, outfighting San Miguel Beer, 101-94, in a tight seesawing game to move in the threshold of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

Jason Castro, Ranidel De Ocampo and Kelly Williams scored 18 points each and combined for 23 in the final quarter as the Texters rebounded from their 86-97 loss in Game Four to gain the pivotal 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“Our model is the San Antonio Spurs,” said TNT coach Nash Racela likening his squad with the NBA team with great title runs with old vanguards in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

“But review all the PBA lineups now and you can see that we have the most number of veterans,” Racela added.

Ryan Reyes, Larry Fonacier, Harvey Carey and Danny Seigle were other TNT vets who helped provide the push that carried the Texters into the brink of a return stint in the all-Filipino finals.

TNT KaTropa, record holder with a Philippine Cup three-peat from 2011-13, goes for a finals clincher in Game Six over at the MOA Arena in Pasay City tomorrow.

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Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra and Star break the 2-2 tie in their own series at 7 p.m. tonight also at the Pasay City playing venue.

“Three-two tells us that we need one more game to advance to the finals. But it’s too far off for us to think of that. SMB was able to come back the last time,” said Racela. “I learned early in life that it’s hard to be complacent. We need to work hard for that one game.”

Game Five was a match marked by wild momentum swings with the Texters blowing away double-digit spreads in the second and third quarters before getting steady in the fourth period and going on to take the crucial game.

Castro, De Ocampo and Williams took charge in the payoff period as the Texters regained control at 83-74 and held on to the finish.

The Beermen actually stayed right behind but couldn’t stem the tide with crucial misses and lapses in the crunch.

They were down by just five at 82-87 when Chris Ross and June Mar Fajardo muffed five straight charities.

A little later, Fajardo bungled an unmolested layup then Marcio Lassiter made an errant pass.

Back-to-back drive-in baskets by Williams and Castro settled the outcome of the game at 93-85.

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