The race for the coveted eighth spot just got interesting.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters needed 53 minutes of basketball to outlast the NLEX Road Warriors, 95-91, to take solo 7th in the 2016 PBA Governors Cup Friday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Fuel Masters relied heavily on reinforcement Eduard Phelps, playing 47 minutes in the game. He finished with a statline of 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting and grabbed 26 rebounds.
“We played their game, we fell into that trap,” Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia said. “But good thing, we got something going in the third quarter and it helped us in the endgame.”
Phoenix was down 82-78 with 33 seconds remaining but Phelps scored on a quick basket followed by a triple and a split on the stripe by Cyrus Baguio that placed the Fuel Masters on top with 6.8 ticks remaining. However, speedy guard Kevin Alas coasted through the Phoenix defense and scored on an easy lay-in to send the game into extra time.
“We gambled with a double-teaming defense that worked towards the end of regulation,” Vanguardia added. “It led to a big three by Cyrus and that proved to be the turning point of the game.”
Phelps then took over in overtime, scoring eight of the 11 overtime points of Phoenix. The NLEX problem was then compounded by a crucial loose ball foul committed by Alas, who was held scoreless in extra time, against Mark Borboran.
“You have to earn every victory in this league,” the ABL champion coach shared.
Baguio added ten markers while Ronjay Buenafe, Willie Wilson, and Josh Urbiztondo chipped in nine markers each.
For NLEX, Henry Walker paced the Road Warriors with 23 points and 11 rebounds. The ageless Asi Taulava added 12 markers but fouled out of the game.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters (7th, 3-4) next face the Star Hotshots (11th, 1-5) on Friday, September 2 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. On the other hand, the NLEX Road Warriors (8th, 3-5) have the will face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (6th, 3-3) on Sunday, September 4 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Phoenix (95) – Phelps 29, Baguio 10, Buenafe 9, Wilson W. 9, Urbiztondo 9, Enciso 5, Borboran 5, Cruz 5, Miranda 4, Lanete 4, Lee 2, Caperal 2, Torres 0, Pennisi 0.
NLEX (91) – Walker 23, Alas 16, Taulava 12, Baracael 11, Villanueva J. 7, Monfort 6, Villanueva E. 5, Anthony 4, Lanete 3, Khobuntin 2, Akl 2.
Quarterscores: 11-16, 33-39, 60-64, 84-84, 95-91.