Vic Manuel was all business against his former team as Phoenix Super LPG took on Alaska in a 2021 PBA Philippine Cup affair, Saturday evening.
The 34-year-old proved to be the Aces’ bane, finishing with a game-best 26 points on a 52-percent clip from the field — including 2-of-2 from deep. He also had 12 rebounds as he powered the Fuel Masters to a 101-93 decision.
This is the first meeting between him and the Aces since the Uytengsu-owned ball club heeded his request and traded him last February. It ended a partnership that began in 2014 when they acquired him from Air21 in a swap for Aldrech Ramos.
Manuel had himself a memorable run with his old team. Besides the numerous trips to the Finals, the former PSBA star also established himself as one of the league’s top bigs with his scoring prowess with them.
The 2018 Mr. Quality Minutes, though, didn’t feel all that sentimental when he faced Alaska and scored a victory. He was simply happy to have helped his team earn their first win of the season after starting out with two losses.
“Ito masaya, kasi finally, nakuha na namin ‘yung first win,” he said moments after the match at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
“Lagi lang nire-remind sa amin ni Coach, enjoy the game. ‘Yun lang. Kasi ‘yung tiwala niya sa’min nandoon talaga. Credit sa kanya kasi talagang binibigyan niya kami ng kumpiyansa, ‘yung buong team namin.”
What really pushed Manuel to do his best, though, was the absence of top guards Matthew Wright and Chris Banchero due to injuries.
Banchero — whom Phoenix acquired via trade with Magnolia for Calvin Abueva — has yet to see action for the Fuel Masters due to a calf injury. Wright, meanwhile, hurt his ankle during team practice, according to head coach Topex Robinson.
“Kanina, pagpunta ko sa Upper Deck, nagkita kami ni coach. Ni-remind niya sa’kin na ‘di raw maglalaro si Matt. So sabi lang ni Coach, ikaw muna. So ‘yun, kaya ‘yung kumpiyansa ko talagang mataas,” Manuel said.
“‘Yung tiwala sa akin ni Coach Topex, tiwala ng coaching staff, ‘yung tiwala ng teammates ko sa’kin [nandoon]. So dine-dedicate namin tong game na ‘to kay Matt at kay Chris, especially sa buong team, sa management.”