By JONAS TERRADO
The Phoenix Fuel Masters extended their winning streak to three games while continuing to make a serious run at a spot in the top four after dealing the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok their first loss, 95-82, last night in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Eugene Phelps produced 36 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks, Matthew Wright and Justin Chua scored 13 and 12 points and Calvin Abueva added nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead Phoenix to its fifth win in six games for second place behind surprise leader Blackwater.
Fuel Masters coach Louie Alas expressed satisfaction in seeing his team defeat the Hotshots as they head to a stretch of five games against teams with winning records, beginning with Saturday’s encounter with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Cagayan de Oro City.
After falling short of making the quarters in the past two conferences, the Fuel Masters seem eager to go on a deep run.
“We have to get as many wins as we can,” said Alas, who will attempt to get Phoenix a twice-to-beat advantage given to the four best teams after the single-round eliminations.
Alas hailed Phoenix’s defensive effort that held Magnolia to 32 percent from the field despite losing a 42-29 lead in the second quarter.
Phelps carried the offensive load for the Fuel Masters even as his Hotshots counterpart Romeo Travis began to miss even high-percentage shots from late in the third onward, much to the astonishment of the audience.
Travis had 28 points and 19 rebounds but went 11-of-28 from the field as Magnolia dropped to a record of 2-1.
Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca scored 11 points each while Paul Lee made only 3-of-13 attempts in his conference debut for eight points.
“We were able to clamp down on their offensive guys,” Alas said.
Meanwhile, medalists from the recent Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games received their cash incentives after the Phoenix-Magnolia game.
Among those in attendance in the ceremonies presided by luminaries led by PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and Philippine Olympic Committee President Ricky Vargas are gold medalists Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting and golfer Yuka Saso.
On Wednesday, Magnolia tries to bounce back against Rain or Shine at 7 p.m. following the 4:30 p.m. tussle between unbeaten Blackwater and NLEX.
Phoenix 95 – Phelps 36, Wright 13, Chua 12, Abueva 9, Revilla 9, Jazul 9, Perkins 7, Intal 0, Wilson 0.
Magnolia 82 – Travis 28, Barroca 11, Sangalang 11, Jalalon 11, Lee 8, Ramos 6, Dela Rosa 3, Melton 2, Gamalinda 2, Pascual 0, Reavis 0, Brondial 0, Herndon 0.
Quarters: 30-19, 48-48, 71-67, 95-82.