Phoenix leaned on the heroics of Matthew Wright to weather a late fightback against Ginebra, 103-101, for their first win of the PBA Governors' Cup on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Wright scored nine points in a pivotal fourth quarter stretch for the Fuel Masters, but none were bigger than the baseline jumper he knocked down with six seconds left to help his side avoid a complete meltdown at the hands of a Kings side that looked hell-bent on stealing the game away from them. Phoenix later did enough to contest Justin Brownlee on the other end as his game-winning attempt from way downtown hit all iron.
"We're really destined to win. We only had a very, very light practice yesterday, walked through everything. I just have to give credit to the guys, they really wanted to win," said head coach Louie Alas, who was ejected with 9:09 left in the final frame.
Having led by as many as 23 at one point in the first half, Phoenix anxiously watched the Kings crawl back. LA Tenorio spiked Ginebra's resurgent attack by scoring five straight points in a 7-0 burst that sliced an 11-point Phoenix lead to just 101-97 with 36 seconds left.
Tenorio later took advantage of two missed free throws from Jorey Napoles on the other end by setting up Stanley Pringle for an easy two underneath to make it a two-point game with 19 seconds remaining, then Justin Brownlee foiled an inbounds pass from RJ Jazul to take it strong to the rack on the break and tie the game at 101 with seven seconds. This set the stage for Wright's clutch basket.
"We just put our defensive best defensive players. We had a foul to give, but it's very dangerous to foul because they might do it in an act of shooting. We just had to play honest defense," Alas said when asked about Phoenix's plan to stop a Ginebra counter in the final moments.
Wright finished with 28 markers on 5-for-9 shooting from three and Eugene Phelps tallied a triple-double of 27 points, 23 rebounds and 11 assists to help the Fuel Masters get on the win column after three tries.
Brownlee also ended up with a triple-double of his own by posting 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 dimes in a losing effort. Tenorio, meanwhile, added 20 points on a 5-for-11 clip from long range.
Phelps, Justin Chua and Alex Mallari went to work early for the Fuel Masters, which used a 9-0 run to gain an 11-2 separation in just the first three minutes of the game. Phoenix later knocked down four triples to erect a 17-point advantage at the end of their 41-point first quarter.
A Phelps fadeaway would later give Phoenix its biggest lead of the game at 53-30 with 5:16 in the second quarter before Ginebra gained some momentum to finish the half with a 14-4 kick. The Kings would go on to trail for most of the game before Brownlee, Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar, who scored 12 points in the payoff period, pushed the team in its uphill climb.
Ginebra fell to an even 1-1 after the loss.
Phoenix (103) - Wright 27, Phelps 27, Chua 17, Jazul 10, Mallari 9, Napoles 6, Perkins 4, Potts 2, Garcia 0.
Ginebra (101) - Brownlee 25, Tenorio 20, Pringle 19, Aguilar 18, Slaughter 11, Dela Cruz 4, Thompson 2, Chan 2, Caperal 0.
Quarters: 41-24, 57-44, 81-66, 103-101.
- Alas said his ejection in the fourth period was unwarranted and that he merely pointed a finger while contesting a call. "It was only a normal reaction, no profanities and everything," he explained. "I guess my hands should always be bound so that I don't point fingers when talking to them."
- Alas and Phoenix now have the best record against Tim Cone and Ginebra over the last seasons at 4-2, per league statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
- Phoenix vs. TNT on October 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
- Ginebra vs. NLEX on October 5 at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, UAE