IN its best showing yet in the franchise’s two-year history, Phoenix will be No. 2 seed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals of the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Calvin Abueva and Matthew Wright took matters into their own hands during a decisive stretch in the fourth quarter as Phoenix brought down Blackwater, 97-91, and clinch No. 2 spot behind Ginebra at the end of the elimination round.
Phoenix coach Louie Alas was obviously pleased with the outcome.
“Talagang gusto namin mag-top four,” said Alas.
“But I told the boys that for us to go to the next level, we need to make multiple stops at every possession. I told them na you have to take pride in your defense,” he added.
“Nung first half, masyadong maraming silang easy baskets. Ina-atake ‘yung mga guards namin.”
Alas said he is not concerned whicht eam he will meet in the quarterfinals.
“Wala kang pwedeng piliin pero siyempre gusto namin sitwasyon namin. You never know, baka mag-semis kami this conference,” said Alas.
“At least we’re one foot away, pero parehong very dangerous ang makakalaban. Alam n’yo naman ang NLEX kapag galing sa talo. At the same time, iyung Meralco, four-game winning streak.”
Abueva, nicknamed “The Beast”, finished with 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting in almost 22 minutes.
The 6-2 forward, who was acquired by Phoenix in a trade with Alaska Milk last August, also had eight rebounds, two assiosts and one steal for the Fuel Masters.
Wright added 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
His clutchtwo-pointer with 41.8 seconds left in the payoff period secured the win for Phoenix.
Import Eugene Phelps had a double-double of 16 points and 19 rebounds in Phoenix’s all-important win.
The Fuel Masters’ 8-3 win-loss record is the best since the franchise joined Asia’s first play-for-pay league after taking over the Red Bull franchise in 2016.
Henry Walker came though with 21 points while Nard Pinto added 17 points and 10 assists for Blackwater, which fell to 7-4 and fifth seed and a quarterfinal showdown against fourth seed Magnolia.
The Elite lost Mike DiGregorio after he was ejected for throwing the ball at Phelps in the second quarter.
DiGregorio only had two points for the Elite.
The top four teams have the luxury of having to win only once over their quarterfinal opponents to make the semifinal round right away.
Phoenix (97) -- Abueva 25, Wright 23, Phelps 16, Revilla 11, Perkins 9, Jazul 4, Chua 4, Intal 3, Wilson 1, Alolino 1, Kramer 0.
Blackwater (91) -- Walker 21, Pinto 17, Zamar 12, Belo 10, Erram 9, Maliksi 9, Digregorio 7, Al-Hussaini 4, Javier 2, Cortez 0, Sumang 0, Jose 0.
Quarterscores: 21-18, 44-48, 72-69, 97-91.