Two games, two overtime periods, two wins for the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters to start their campaign in the 2019 Honda PBA Philippine Cup.
Justin Chua, Alex Mallari, Matthew Wright, and Calvin Abueva combined to score all 14 overtime points for the Fuel Masters as they defeated the TNT KaTropa, 93-84, Saturday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Wright led Phoenix Pulse with 23 points with Mallari chipping in 15 markers. Abueva added 14 points and 12 rebounds off the bench as the Fuel Masters overcame Roger Pogoy's 30-point explosion.
It was a low scoring first half for both TNT and Phoenix with the KaTropa holding a slim 26-25 lead. In the first 24 minutes, TNT shot 23% from the field while Phoenix was only a shade better at 26%. What allowed the KaTropa to take the lead were two three-point conversions out of 21 tries while Fuel Masters came up empty on their first 10 attempts.
Scoring finally picked up for both teams in the third period and it was Phoenix that got some separation 9-0 run off a 43-43 deadlock. JC Intal nailed a three-point shot quickly followed by baskets from Jorey Napoles and Calvin Abueva to surge ahead.
Jayson Castro finally ended the drought for TNT with two free throws but Alex Mallari answered with a triple to give the Fuel Masters a double-digit lead 55-45 with two minutes remaining in the third.
However, TNT rallied which was started by Ryan Reyes and capped by a Castro triple to trim their deficit down to two, 56-54, heading into the final period.
The Fuel Masters threatened to pull away again early in the fourth as they went on a 7-0 run, capped by a Mallari basket to lead 65-57. Playing with some sense of urgency, Pogoy started being more aggressive as he scattered 13 points in rapid succession to keep the KaTropa in the game. Pogoy ended his one-man scoring spree with a triple that got them to within four points, 71-67.
Pogoy continued his heroics in the end game as he nailed a triple with less than a minute remaining to tie the count at 70. Mike Miranda and Matthew Wright missed their three-point opportunities in the dying seconds to send the game into overtime.
-- TNT was still playing far from full capacity as they were without Anthony Semerad, Troy Rosario, and Jericho Cruz for the second straight game.
-- In the last edition of the Philippine Cup, TNT and Phoenix split their two meetings. The Fuel Masters defeated the KaTropa in their elimination round game but TNT won the more important contest as they won the playoff match to claim the eighth seed, knocking the Fuel Masters out of contention.
-- Michael Miranda was thrown out in the overtime period after throwing a punch to Justin Chua's midsection. Miranda had 11 points off the bench.
Phoenix Pulse vs. Columbian Dyip on Jan. 23 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
TNT vs. NLEX Road Warriors on Jan. 23 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum