by Jonas Terrado
Games Friday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. — NLEX vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. — Phoenix Pulse vs Ginebra
Phoenix Pulse kept an inside track in the quarterfinal race after halting NorthPort’s four-game winning streak by prevailing 97-87 in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Matthew Wright scored 28 points while adding five rebounds and six assists to lead the Fuel Masters to a crucial victory that put them at 3-4 with four games left in the eliminations.
Coach Louie Alas and Phoenix won the first of a stretch of two games in three days which ends on Friday with a match against defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the same venue.
An upset win will help the Fuel Masters boost their chances of qualifying to the quarters despite losing controversial star Calvin Abueva to an indefinite suspension.
Import Richard Howell had 18 points and 15 rebounds, RJ Jazul scored 17 points and Mallari added 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Wright’s basket gave Phoenix its biggest lead at 15 points, 81-66, midway in the third but NorthPort tried to mount a comeback behind three-pointers from Mo Tautuaa, Robert Bolick and Kevin Ferrer.
A Ferrer trey pulled the Batang Pier within three, 84-81, with 2:29 to go but Alex Mallari scored a tough layup and Jason Perkins converted a baseline jumper for 88-81 Fuel Masters, 1:52 left.
Tautuaa had 19 points and Ferrer scored 18 but the Batang Pier failed to gain the solo lead in the standings, dropping to second place at 7-2.
PBA Press Corps Player of the Week Robert Bolick scored 11 points but shot 4-of-14 from the field while import Prince Ibeh produced 12 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.