by Waylon Galvez
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Kia vs Magnolia
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco
Phoenix Fuel coach Louie Alas had a simple instruction to his players during halftime break.
Defend the perimeter shooters of NLEX.
The Fuelmasters did just that with a big defensive effort matched with a blistering offensive attack in the third quarter to score a 102-95 victory and handed NLEX its first loss this season in the PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Sophomore forward Matthew Wright scored 19 points, nine of which came in the third frame, while veterans Jeff Chan and RJ Jazul had 18 and 15 points, respectively, for the Fuel Masters.
The trio were also responsible in hounding the perimeter players of NLEX, in particular ace rookie Kiefer Ravena, who was held to only eight points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field after he averaged 19 points in his first two games as a professional.
In that pivotal third period, Phoenix Fuel held NLEX to 9-of-23 shooting (39.1%) while its opponent to nine turnovers. On offense, the Fuel Masters shot 13-of-28 (46.4%) from the field.
That effort on both ends of the basketball court allowed the Fuel Masters to hike their lead from a slim 54-53 advantage at halftime to 88-73 entering to the last 12 minutes.
A jump shot by Jazul gave Phoenix Fuel its biggest lead at 90-73.
“Talagang nag-concentrate kami handling their perimeter guys,” said Alas, appointed as Phoenix Fuel mentor prior to the season after serving as top assistant coach of Alaska coach Alex Compton.
NLEX rallied back behind veteran forward Larry Fonacier, who scored a game-high 22 points. Fonacier’s two free throws trimmed the lead of Phoenix Fuel to only four points, 92-88, with 6:05 left.
However, the Fuel Masters tightened their defense down the stretch and rookie forward Jason Perkins – the No. 4 in the Draft – iced the game with a baseline jump shot for a 100-92 lead with 1:43 to play.
The 6-foot-7 Perkins, a former stalwart of De La Salle University and CIGNAL TV Hawkeyes in the PBA D-League, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Justin Chua added 12 point, while Doug Kramer added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix Fuel.The scores:
PHOENIX FUEL 102 – Wright 19, Chan 18, Jazul 15, Perkins 14, Chua 12, Kramer 10, Revilla 6, Wilson 2, Intal 2, Dehesa 2, Eriobu 2, Alolino 0.
NLEX 95 – Fonacier 22, Tiongson 12, Miranda 10, Quinahan 10, Al-Hussaini 8, Ravena 8, Taulava 6, Alas 6, Baguio 4, Gotladera 3, Ighalo 3, Buenafe 3.
Quarterscores: 19-25, 54-53, 88-73, 102-95.
GINEBRA 104 – Aguilar 21, Slaughter 18, Tenorio 17, Mariano 11, Cruz 10, Thompson 9, Ferrer 8, Caguioa 7, Taha 3.
GLOBALPORT 97 – Anthony 29, Pringle 23, Nabong 12, Sargent 12, Grey 9, Guinto 7, Arana 5, Taha 0, Elorde 0, Flores 0, Gabayni 0.
Quarters: 19-23, 46-48, 68-77, 104-97.