by Jonas Terrado
Columbian edged Phoenix Pulse, 100-98, in a whirlwind finish to keep its slim playoff chances alive in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Glenn Khobuntin’s chasedown block on RJ Jazul set up a Reden Celda runner with 9.3 seconds remaining as the Dyip ended the Fuel Masters’ two-game winning streak while savoring their most exciting victory this conference.
The Dyip improved to 3-7, staying in contention for a quarterfinals berth with a game left in the eliminations.
But Columbian’s opportunity remains tight coupled with a tough assignment ahead in defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on July 14 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Johnedel Cardel seems convinced that it would be better for Columbian to concentrate on its preparation for the Governors’ Cup in September than make a bid for a quarters berth.
And the low expectations appears to be working.
“We have a very minimal chance but I don’t expect that,” Cardel said. “We just want to win our last two games.”
Import Lester Prosper had 25 points and 21 rebounds, Rashawn McCarthy had 19 points, rookie CJ Perez posted 18 points and Celda added 17 points in his return from injury.
Import Richard Howell made 35 points, 23 rebounds and seven steals and Matthew Wright scored 23 points but Phoenix dropped to 4-5 after winning its last two outings.
Prosper put the Dyip ahead 98-95 on a three but Wright answered a couple of possessions later with a triple of his own for 98-all, 32.6 seconds remaining.
Phoenix appeared to have taken the driver seat after Howell stripped the ball from Perez before throwing a pass to Jazul for a potential transitional layup.
But Khobuntin came out of nowhere to block the attempt even as Celda refused to heed to Cardel’s instructions to call a timeout by banking in his go-ahead basket.
The Fuel Masters tried to go for the win but Howell’s three-point sailed nowhere as time expired.
COLUMBIAN 100 — Howell 35, Wright 23, Jazul 12, Intal 8, Mallari 7, Perkins 7, Chua 6, Kramer 0, Marcelo 0, Napoles 0, Dennison 0.
PHOENIX PULSE 98 — Prosper 25, McCarthy 19, Perez 18, Celda 17, Khobuntin 6, Reyes 5, Camson 4, Escoto 4, Cahilig 2, Faundo 0, Tabi 0.
Quarters: 22-27; 49-40; 73-71; 100-98.