The Phoenix Fuel Masters have a memorable debut to look back on.
Led by RR Garcia, who had a career-high 33 points built on 6/8 shooting from the 3-point line, the league’s newest team left the NLEX Road Warriors in the dust in just their first outing, 118-106, Wednesday evening at the Smart-Araneta Colliseum.
The first quarter opened with a tight back-and-forth affair between the two teams, with baskets traded at both ends and the lead changing hands at every possession. Late in the quarter, big baskets from sweet-shooting Mac Baracael paved the way for Phoenix to pull away with the lead just before the buzzer, 24-21.
With the locals struggling to keep the offensive alive, the Road Warriors found themselves leaning on their import Al Thornton and veteran big man Asi Taulava to dominate inside as the second quarter opened. Though NLEX continued to dominate the paint, the Fuel Masters responded by sending barrages from the 3-point line, with big threes coming from RR Garcia and JC Intal. At the half, Phoenix lead by three, 50-47.
Two more big triples from Garcia and sneaky baskets from Chico Lanete gave Phoenix to build the first double-digit lead of the ball game just past the halfway mark of the quarter, 75-64. With Phoenix dominating through their long-range shots, the Road Warriors had to settle for attacking from the inside. However, with the NLEX bigs’ output barely enough to keep up with the eagle-eyed Fuel Masters, Phoenix held on to the lead comfortably for the rest of the quarter. At the end of three quarters, the lead was still with Phoenix, 84-76.
The fourth quarter saw the three-point barrage resume, with Josh Urbiztondo and JC Intal hitting treys of their own to keep Phoenix ahead of the chase. NLEX import Al Thornton tried to lead an NLEX resurgence in the latter half of the quarter, scoring seven straight points to come within four, 100-104, with just around four minutes left in the game. JC Intal and Willy Wilson, however, responded and nailed back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to eight. The visibly worn Road Warriors could only watch as the Fuel Masters extended their lead anew.
Phoenix shot an impressive 48% from the arc, nailing 17 of 35 attempts. NLEX, on the other hand, managed to sink only 10 of 25 attempts. The Fuel Masters also led the rebound game, with 58 boards to NLEX’s 42.
Best Player of the Game RR Garcia had 6 assists and 2 steals to add to his career high 33 markers. Import Kenny Adeleke had 18 points and 20 rebounds for Phoenix, while JC Intal added 17 markers. Returning import Al Thornton led NLEX with 33 points and 7 rebounds. Sean Anthony added 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Jonas Villanueva and Asi Taulava had 19 and 18 markers, respectively.
Phoenix are now 1-0 after their winning debut, while NLEX sit at 1-1 following the loss.
Phoenix (118) – Garcia 33, Adeleke 18, Intal 17, Baracael 15, Brondial 8, Pennisi 8, Urbiztondo 6, Wilson 6, Lanete 5, Fortuna 2, Monfort 0.
NLEX (106) – Thornton 27, Anthony 19, Taulava 18, Villanueva J. 16, Wilson 7, Borboran 5, Alas 3, Rios 3, Enciso 2, Khobuntin 2, Lanete 2, Villanueva E. 2, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 21-24, 50-47, 84-76, 118-106.