Old habit hard to break as Phoenix again blows big lead before nipping Blackwater
Phoenix star Matthew Wright completes a drive against Blackwater's defense. Marlo Cueto

PHOENIX saw a familiar habit resurface, but regained its bearings in the nick of time for a 107-102 squeaker over Blackwater to start its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on a positive note on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Fuel Masters squandered a 22-point lead then withstood a handful of comeback attempts by the Elite to pull off the hard-earned victory.

James White kept the Fuel Masters afloat all-game long with 31 points, 14 boards, five assists, and five blocks, while Justin Chua put up a breakout performance as the they handed the Elite their second straight loss.

“We’ll take it. Good character win,” Phoenix coach Louie Alas said.

“Yun din yung sakit namin last conference,” he added of giving up another huge lead. “Hindi ko na matuturo yung (mental) toughness.”

After all, the Fuel Masters gave up an early 42-20 cushion, allowing the Elite to tie the game at 98 following Mac Belo’s third straight three-pointer with two minutes and 32 seconds left.

But White picked up Matthew Wright’s missed layup to score on a putback slam on the other end to give the Fuel Masters the lead for good, before Willie Wilson converted a three-point play to give then enough gap that spared them the blushes after wasting that early lead.

Wright also came through on both ends for Phoenix, tallying 19 points, eight assists, three boards, and three steals, while Chua finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and two steals.

Roi Sumang led the Elite with 20 points, including 12 in the final frame, while Jarrid Famous chipped 19 points and 16 caroms in a losing effort for the Elite, who missed Poy Erram in the second half after their star big man was ejected in the second quarter following an uncharacteristic outburst over a non-call.

The scores:

PHOENIX 107 – White 31, Wright 19, Chua 17, Chan 11, Wilson 10, Jazul 9, Revilla 3, Mendoza 3, Perkins 2, Kramer 2, Eriobu 0

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BLACKWATER 102 – Sumang 20, Famous 19, Belo 19, Maliksi 11, DiGregorio 11, Palma 7, Erram 6, Jose 6, Pinto 3, Marcelo 0, Sena 0

Quarterscores: 31-17, 56-39, 75-69, 107-102

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