After rising high with so much fire, Phoenix turned to ashes on Friday night.
The Fuel Masters failed to take advantage of their twice-to-beat edge and bowed to a more-experienced Meralco Bolts, ending a flight that many thought would reach at least the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals.
“Meralco’s a veteran team,” admitted Phoenix top gunner Matthew Wright, who had 20 points and six dimes in their 103-108 overtime loss.
“They showed veteran poise towards the end of the game. They did what teams like that do – [teams] who make the finals. It’s usually their conference with Allen Durham. We gotta be way, way more mentally tough.”
Phoenix have every right to kick themselves following this heartbreaker. This was not the way they wanted to exit, knowing that they were among the top teams of the tilt – they had gone into the quarterfinals as the two-seed.
Wright, however, isn’t going to make himself miserable after the loss. The sophomore guard out of St. Bonaventure is instead sticking to the positives, pointing out that losses such as this will only help the Fuel Masters in the long run.
“I told the guys in the locker room that these are the kind of losses that build character. We’re not gonna get this loss unravel us. The [Chicago] Bulls and the [Los Angeles] Lakers, they were losing games,” said Wright.
“Bulls were losing to the Pistons like this before they won championships; Lakers were losing to teams before the three-peat. We feel like we’re in a position where we can be one of the better teams in the next couple years.
“So we gotta stick together and take this loss collectively in a positive light. We just have to train our mind to think of the good in this scenario,” the 27-year-old sophomore added.
The Fuel Masters’ sights are now set on the next season. As much as this season was disappointing – at least given the undesired result of their Governors’ Cup run – they have something to look forward to in the 2018 Draft.
Phoenix will have two first round picks in the 2018 Draft – number four and probably number 12. And for Wright, he believes that it will definitely help the growth of Phoenix, who already have him, Calvin Abueva, and Jason Perkins.
“We got good pieces with Jason. We all know what Jason can do now. We have Calvin, a couple of draft picks in the first round. We’re trying to expand aggressively,” said Wright, the Fuel Masters’ pick in the 2016 Gilas Draft.
“We’re not trying to be all those bottom-dwelling teams. We’re aiming for the top. It’s exciting and the country should be excited that there’s gonna be another lead team in the next couple of conferences. I truly believe that.”
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