Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters interim head coach Topex Robinson knows that guard Matthew Wright will always his team's back whenever they come out to play. Wright repaid that with 36 points in Phoenix's 116-98 drubbing of the Meralco Bolts on Monday evening at the Angeles University Foundation gym, and afterwards dedicated his performance to the late Kobe Bryant.
"Matthew is gonna be one of the guys that's gonna be there for us. Matthew Wright will win us games just like what happened now, and Matthew Wright knows that we're gonna lose games with him also. But what's important here is the support that he has. He has a group of guys that believes in his capabilities and also believes in his flaws," said Robinson, who won his maiden PBA game.
Wright, who noted that this was his first game since Bryant's untimely death in January, said he would be honoring the "Black Mamba" for the entire conference.
"I know it's been a long time, it's been over eight months, but not a day goes by when I don't think about him. That was my hero--my childhood hero. So I just knew that when it was time to come on the court, I was gonna dedicate that performance to Kobe. I'm gonna wear his shoes for the entire conference and I just try to channel my inner Mamba today," Wright told courtside reporter Selina Dagdag-Alas.
Wright poured in 14 of his 36 in the crucial third quarter, which stirred the tides in favor of the Fuel Masters. The team scored 39 points in the period alone, which turned a respectable 53-41 halftime lead to a 92-63 smashing by the end of the quarter.
Phoenix's shooting clip was also filled to the chambers as they drilled 17 shots out of 39 attempts from downtown.
After Nico Salva's layup at the 4:33 mark of the second period, which trimmed the gap to three, 42-39, Phoenix went on a 13-2 run the rest of the half.
The hot shooting of Phoenix then continued in the second half, when the Fil-Canadian guard rained down 14 of his points. Phoenix also held Meralco's offense to just four points in the run, which was capped off by a Wright triple with 6:52 left to lead by 28, 73-45.
The lead was pushed to its largest at 29 when Dave Marcelo made a last-second fling from downtown just before the third period ended.
Jason Perkins and Justin Chua added 17 points apiece for Phoenix.
Meanwhile for Meralco, skipper Reynel Hugnatan tallied 16 points and two rebounds, while Newsome contributed 12 markers, nine rebounds, and five assists.
Aaron Black, the son of Bolts head coach Norman had six points and three assists in his PBA debut.
"It's obviously my first year leading this team. If I wasn't nervous and I wasn't scared, I should have done other things. I came here enjoying this opportunity. I'm playing against coaches that most of them shaped me when I used to play. My point here is I just wanna enjoy every opportunity that I'll get better," said Robinson.
Robinson also recalled that Wright channeled his inner Mamba today by guaranteeing his first head coaching victory.
"Matt told me he's gonna give me this win. That's what he just reminded me. I just love the way he competes. He's a winner, he hates to lose. That's what I love about him and that's what I hate about him. That goes both ways. But he's a winner," recalled Robinson.
Phoenix (116) -- Wright 36, Perkins 17, Chua 17, Garcia 14, Intal 7, Napoles 6, Jazul 5, Marcelo 4, Rios 4, Heruela 3, Reyes 3, Gamboa 0.
Meralco (98) -- Hugnatan 16, Newsome 12, Quinto 11, Maliksi 11, Salva 10, Hodge 9, Jose 8, Amer 7, Black 6, Pinto 4, Faundo 2, Caram 2, Jackson 0, Almazan 0, Jamito 0.
Quarter Scores: 25-21, 53-41, 92-63, 116-98.
- Raymond Almazan was unable to suit up as he continues to recuperate from his lateral meniscus tear.
- Calvin Abueva remains out of action for Phoenix, as he is still not done with his GAB-mandated seminars on athlete conduct and gender sensitivity.
- Meralco vs Alaska on Oct. 14 at 4 p.m.
- Phoenix vs NorthPort on Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.