With their indomitable character in full display, the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters defeated the San Miguel Beermen, 96-93, to secure the twice-to-beat edge and the top spot for the Philippine Cup playoffs, Saturday in Panabo City, Davao.
The Fuel Masters finish the elimination round with a 9-2 win-loss record, securing the win-once playoff incentive for just the second time in franchise history. They first managed the feat in the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup.
Every Fuel Master whom head coach Louie Alas fielded in scored at least three points, with Matthew Wright on top with 25 points. Alex Mallari had 12 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Jason Perkins made 10 markers and 10 boards.
Wright and Perkins conspired in a time needed the most.
When SMB bucked a slow start that saw them go down by 13, and tied the game at 90-all with 3:11 left in the game, Wright sank a wing triple and Perkins made a tough turnaround jumper for a 95-90 lead with 39.6 seconds to go.
Arwind Santos then threatened Phoenix, sinking a deep trey from the top to pull San Miguel to within two, 93-95, with 28.6 ticks. Unfortunately, he would commit a costly error 15 seconds later by failing to catch Alex Cabagnot’s pass.
Santos then had no choice but to give up his sixth foul of the match against Perkins to stop the clock. The sophomore forward out of La Salle split his charities with 7.9 seconds left to make it a three-point lead.
Terrence Romeo tried to send the game into overtime but his trey missed, snapping the defending four-time all-Filipino champions’ four-game streak.
The Beermen’s loss wasted the efforts of reigning five-time league Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, as he produced 29 points and 12 rebounds. Cabagnot had 17 points and five boards, while Romeo chimed in 15 markers.
Santos finished with 14 and 10 caroms.
San Miguel are now down to 6-4 and have kissed their twice-to-beat edge hopes goodbye. They will have a chance to redeem themselves versus the Alaska Aces when they clash on March 24, Sunday.
Phoenix 96 – Wright 25, Mallari 12, Perkins 10, Chua 9, Kramer 9, Jazul 8, Dennison 7, Revilla 5, Mendoza 4, Abueva 4, Marcelo 3.
San Miguel 93 – Fajardo 29, Cabagnot 17, Romeo 15, Santos 14, Lassiter 7, Nabong 5, Ross 4, Pessumal 2, Mamaril 0, Tubid 0, Rosser 0.
Quarterscores: 33-19, 49-46, 74-70, 96-93.