PHOENIX proved it belongs in the playoffs as it left a dent on Rain or Shine’s status as the PBA’s model of consistency by eliminating the Elasto Painters, 105-94, in their sudden-death match on Wednesday night.
The Fuel Masters banked on a blistering start and had an answer for every Elasto Painters comeback attempt as they booked the last ticket to the Governors’ Cup playoffs, putting an end in the process to their victims’ run of 12 straight postseason appearances.
Eugene Phelps was unstoppable down low as he erupted for 40 points, 14 boards, and six assists, while Josh Urbiztondo provided a huge spark for the Fuel Masters, who clinched a first-ever playoff berth in just the second conference of the Davao-based franchise in the league.
“We knew we had to match their (ROS) experience,” Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia said. “Our youth was there to help us and we know what Eugene can do.”
“We’re also just lucky,” the young mentor added. “They’re a champion team…but I thank the Lord for giving us another chance to get to the playoffs .”
Eager to make an impression as a rookie franchise, the Fuel Masters came out firing from all angles as they led most of the way and established their biggest lead at 18 points late in the third quarter, where Urbiztondo pumped in seven of his 23 points.
The E-Painters, though, rallied and came to within five points, 92-87, after a Paul Lee layup off a spin move late in the fourth.
But veterans Willy Wilson and Cyrus Baguio finally responded to Vanguardia’s challenge, while Phelps was his usual dominant self as the Fuel Masters held on.
Josh Dollard led the E-Painters with 20 points, but could only contribute two points in the payoff period, where Jericho Cruz scored eight of his 14 markers to lead their fightback that fell short.
PHOENIX 105 – Phelps 40, Urbiztondo 23, W. Wilson 9, Baguio 8, Enciso 5, Intal 5, Pennisi 5, Lanete 4, Lee 3, Torres 3, Buenafe 0, J. Wilson 0
ROS 94 – Dollard 20, Cruz 14, Belga 12, Quinahan 10, Tiu 9, Chan 7, Ponferada 7, Ahanmisi 4, Lee 4, Norwood 4, Almazan 2, Trollano 1, Nimes 0
Quarterscores: 29-16, 54-38, 85-71, 105-94