Along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City lies a decades-old stadium that Eugene Phelps can now call his personal playground: the Cuneta Astrodome.
The import known as El Destructor dropped 51 points on 21-of-31 shooting and 20 rebounds to power his Phoenix Fuel Masters past the NLEX Road Warriors, 123-97, to return to the 2018 Governors’ Cup win column, Wednesday.
Wednesday night marked the second time Phelps scored 50 in the very same venue – he had 53 points and 21 rebounds in a double overtime win over the Blackwater Elite about 19 months ago, in the 2017 Commissioners’ Cup.
“Me and this gym got a love-hate relationship,” Phelps grinned.
“It’s my second 50-ball here but the last time we played Alaska here, I was drained,” added Phelps, recalling their 91-114 loss to the Aces last July that ousted them from the Commissioners’ Cup – he only had 23 and 10 there.
“This time it’s different.”
Phelps has proven time and again that he is one of the PBA’s most dominant imports. He didn’t shy away from the fact that he wants to win the Best Import plum someday, but it will only be attained if his team go far.
“Honestly, I’m trying to win Import of the Year. And I understand that to get that, you gotta at least get to the semifinals. So that’s the goal. Top Four at least,” said the 6-foot-5 American, who has never reached the semifinals in the league.
“And then you never know, once you get to the Top Four, you can probably make it to the championship. Once we get there, anything is possible,” he added.
That semifinal goal looks attainable for the young franchise, as they are 6-2 after Wednesday’s win. One more victory and they will be marching on to the quarters, next to the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
“I think it’s maturity,” he said of their ongoing run. “We just keep playing as a team. It’s just not me, there’s Calvin [Abueva], Matt [Wright], we got Perk (Jason Perkins) – Rookie of the Year. So it’s just a team effort, you know.”
However, getting that one win to book a spot in the next round will be challenging, as they will be facing the struggling yet dreaded San Miguel Beermen this Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Phelps, though, isn’t fazed.
“They’re a great team you know but honestly without June Mar [Fajardo], they’re a regular team,” he said, as SMB are in the midst of a three-game losing skid.
“I mean, we just gotta play our game and I think we’ll be fine.”