Justin Chua came up clutch as the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters nipped the Alaska Aces, 78-76, to snap their two-game funk in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Saturday night at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-6 big man out of Ateneo nailed a lay-up off a pick-and-roll play with Alex Mallari with 9.8 seconds left. He gave his side the lead after Alaska tied things up at 76-all with 33.2 seconds to go. A terrible miss from three by Kevin Racal then sealed the win for Phoenix.
Chua finished with 10 points and six rebounds in the win, which improved the Fuel Masters’ win-loss record to 2-3. It also gave head coach Louie Alas a fitting welcome after serving a two-game suspension.
“Para akong rookie kanina. Sobrang nerbyos ko for the game,” said Alas.
Richard Howell did not foul out this time, and even powered Phoenix with 24 points, 29 rebounds, and three assists.
Alex Mallari – who suffered a cut in his hand that required stitches – led the Fuel Masters’ local crew with 15 points, going a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point area. The lengthy guard also collected four rebounds, three steals, and two dimes.
“I give credit to Alex Mallari. For the longest time he was absent, muntik pang ‘di maglaro yan kasi two practices na na-late. So kung hindi namin na-patch up yon hindi namin gagamitin,” bared the outspoken bench strategist.
“Sabi niya sa’kin, ‘coach kung ‘di mo ko gagamitin okay lang sa’kin’. Give credit to him because he played two-way basketball. Siya bumabantay sa scorer ng kabila, tapos siya rin umiiskor sa amin,” added Alas.
Chris Banchero produced 18 points, six assists, and six rebounds to lead Alaska, whose three-game winning streak came to an end. The Milkmen have now fallen to 4-3, and also dropped to the fourth spot of the team standings.
Vic Manuel chimed in 10 markers, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block in the loss.
Import Nino Johnson – Alaska’s replacement for 35-year-old cenyer Chris Daniels – only had six points, though he collected five steals, four blocks, four boards, and four feeds in the 31 minutes and 28 seconds he saw action.
Phoenix will next face the Magnolia Hotshots on Saturday, June 22. Meanwhile, Alaska look to top last conference’s champions San Miguel Beermen on Friday, June 21. Both games are set at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Phoenix 78 – Howell 24, Mallari 15, Wright 14, Chua 10, Intal 6, Revilla 6, Perkins 2, Jazul 1, Kramer 0, Marcelo 0, Wilson 0, Dennison 0.
Alaska 76 – Banchero 18, Manuel 10, Thoss 8, Racal 8 Teng 6, Johnson 6, Casio 6, Cruz 6, Pascual 2, Enciso 2, Exciminiano 2, Ayaay 2, Galliguez 0.
Quarterscores: 16-12, 35-30, 52-50, 78-76.