Facing the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Wednesday evening was a struggle for Phoenix Fuel Masters import Eugene Phelps. Though it was in Cuneta Astrodome where he has scored 50 twice before, he couldn’t get loose.
“I was getting doubled so my shots were not falling,” recalled Phelps, who only shot 5-of-15 from the field for 18 points.
But Phelps did not force the game to go his way. Instead of being relied on, the 6-foot-5 bruiser from California was the one who relied on his teammates, and it was a decision that he never regretted at all, when the dust settled.
With the locals in charge this time, the Fuel Masters were able to disappoint the Elasto Painters and kick them out of the playoff race, 103-97, to move to solo fourth in the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup team standings with a 7-3 card.
“My teammates were making big shots for me, you know. I don’t want to force shots, so when I see a wide-open guy [I pass the ball to them],” said Phelps, who also had 20 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks to his name.
But what makes Wednesday’s victory so impressive was the composure the Fuel Masters displayed.
Phoenix were already down by 16, 55-71, early in the third quarter, but they fought back strongly in the final canto by unfurling a 19-6 scoring spree – capped by Jason Perkins’ lay-up – to take a 93-90 lead with 4:32 on the clock.
And when the Elasto Painters knocked within a point twice after losing the upper hand, LA Revilla sank a cold-blooded triple – right in front of Phoenix’s bench – to strike the dagger into RoS’ chest, 98-93, with 1:16 left to play.
“It shows big character for the team,” said Phelps. “We could have easily put our head down but we knew Top Four is on the line. So we just took it step-by-step, get a stop and then get a bucket.
“We ended up coming back to get a win.”
Still, Phoenix can’t afford to rest on their laurels even if they have earned one of their most impressive wins in the conference. For Phelps, there’s still the Blackwater Elite, whom they will face on the elimination round’s final day.
“It feels good but we got one more game, so we can’t relax yet,” he said.
“It’s a huge game for us. That’s like our season on the line, you know. If we lose that game, we drop. Obviously if we win, we get Top Four and we’ll probably play them again. It’s big for us, especially for a young franchise,” added Phelps.
“I think this is our third year you know. We’ll just play our A-game.”