(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth of a series of PBA yearenders where we recap each team’s season and grade their performance from A to D.)
THE rise of the Phoenix Fuel Masters late in 2018 was one of the top stories of the year in the PBA, working out a big trade in the hopes of turning their fortunes around.
The Fuel Masters now look ahead to a better future after spending their first two seasons in the league in the bottom half of the standings.
Flat start for Louie Alas
The Fuel Masters had a rough campaign early in the year, narrowly missing the playoffs in the Philippine Cup and the Governors’ Cup.
Phoenix lost in a playoff match against TNT for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Philippine Cup. It was a slow start to the new coaching staff headed by Alas, who took over the team late in 2017.
Eugene Phelps explodes in return
Phelps picked up where he left off in his second stint with the Fuel Masters, as the high-scoring import scored 50 points in a 113-107 win over Columbian last August 22. He repeated that performance on October 10 when he had 51 points in a 123-97 win over NLEX.
Jeff Chan traded
In one of two trades made by Fuel Masters in 2018, Phoenix gave up its resident three-point shooter in Jeff Chan to Barangay Ginebra in exchange for a 2018 first-round draft pick, which they used to pick Jorey Napoles.
Best finish in eliminations
After missing the playoffs for the first two conferences, the Fuel Masters came up huge in the Governors’ Cup, placing second with an 8-3 record in the best finish of the franchise in the elimination round since entering the PBA in 2016.
Phoenix, however, failed to go deep as the Fuel Masters were stunned by seventh-seed Meralco in the quarterfinals.
Abueva becomes a Fuel Master
In possibly the biggest trade of 2018, the Fuel Masters acquired the controversial Calvin Abueva from Alaska for Karl Dehesa and a 2019 first-round draft pick. Abueva was a big reason for the team’s turnaround in the Governors’ Cup.
The Abueva trade was the story of Phoenix’s 2018, transforming the Fuel Masters instantly into a legitimate contender in the coming years.