The Phoenix Petroleum continued their hot start in the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup as it survived a tooth-and-nail affair against a gritty Blustar Detergent Dragons squad, 97-94, held at the JCSGO Gym in Quezon City, Thursday afternoon.
From the get go, the Dragons were breathing on the necks of Phoenix, managing to close the first quarter on a tied 23-all finish. Juami Tiongson and Tian Yuan Kuek asserted themselves in the early goings of the next canto, as the duo provided a small four-point cushion four minutes into the period.
Then came a 13-3 counter-rally by Phoenix ignited by triples by Gryann Mendoza and Al Francis Tamsi. The squad led by as much as six during the quarter, but melted their grip down to one with BluStar making consecutive baskets down the stretch.
“Yun ang in-address ko sa kanila kanina ng halftime, hindi ko nakikita yung Phoenix na kilala ko. You better check your heart kasi sobrang complacent natin,” said coach Eric Gonzales. “Tinry naman nila mag-step up ng third and fourth quarters, pero binigyan na nila ng confidence yung kalaban eh.”
The script remained the same in the second half as Phoenix had a tough time pulling away from their Kuala-Lumpur based opponents. In addition to a sizzling start to the new half, Blustar managed to lead by seven on the 7:42 mark of the third at 59-52. However Mike Tolomia and Ed Daquioag rallied their troops to tie things up at 62, just before trailing by a point heading into the final frame.
Despite late miscues by Phoenix, they took control of the final quarter of play courtesy of their starters offensive surge. Daquioag’s basket gave his team a five point lead with 6:16 to play in regulation. Phoenix sustained the lead for the next four minutes, but Tiongson and Kuek led the Dragons’ final stand in the ball game. Free throws by Escoto sealed the game for the Accelerators.
With 38 seconds left, the Dragons tied the match once again at 94. Afterwards, Mike Tolomia buried a pivotal basket to reinstall the lead. Tiongson would then muff his own attempt, while free throws helped Phoenix seal the deal.
“Yung good news lang is kahit paano naitawid namin yung panalo. Work in progress pa rin kami and it’s something we have to work on, yung fire ng players,” said Gonzales.
The Dragons made it a close game thanks to six more triples made in the game. However, Phoenix’s defense forced them to 19 turnovers. The Petroleum team finished the game on a 47% clip, while also punishing their opponents in the paint, 58-38.
Phoenix (97) – Daquioag 25, Tolomia 20, Jamito 19, Pogoy 10, Escoto 6, Tamsi 5, Mendoza 4, Andrada 3, Batino 2, Belo 2, Pascual 1, Inigo 0, Knuttel 0.
Blustar (94) – Tiongson 34, Kuek 21, Ting 12, Ma 11, Choo 5, Teo 5, Liaw 3, Wong 3, Mak 0, Ong 0, Palma 0.
Quarterscores: 23-23, 48-47, 72-73, 97-94.