PHOENIX pounced on a shorthanded Barangay Ginebra, holding off the Gin Kings, 79-73, on Sunday to be become just the second team to clinch a postseason berth in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Fuel Masters took advantage of a Gin Kings side that missed injured Japeth Aguilar, leading from start to finish as the high-octane offensive squad emerged victorious in a low-scoring game for a change.
Matthew Wright continued to prove he’s a reliable scorer, firing a game-high 18 points, including a three-pointer down the stretch that took the fight out of the Gin Kings as the Fuel Masters got back on track and won for the third time in four games.
In the middle of the pack all-conference long, the Fuel Masters also suddenly climbed to second spot with a 6-4 win-loss mark as the Gin Kings fell to a 5-5.
“Without Japeth, it gave us a lift,” Fuel Masters coach Ariel Vanguardia said. “It’s not our type of game, but we proved to ourselves we can defend.”
“You cannot outcoach him (Tim Cone), but I told the guys you got to help me outwork them,” he added as the Fuel Masters snapped the Gin Kings' first win streak of the conference.
The Fuel Masters certainly heeded Vanguardia’s call as they established an early lead – as many as 12 points – and they never relinquished thanks to a rare defensive lockdown that saw them limit the Gin Kings to just 36-percent shooting after making just 28 of their 78 shots.
On offense, the Fuel Masters mustered enough firepower to get the job done.
JC Intal, excluded from the latest Gilas pool, showed his worth with 16 points, 10 boards, two blocks, and two steals, while Simon Enciso added 11 points built around three treys. In his second game back, Willie Wilson chipped in 10 points boards, three steals, and three assists.
Mark Caguioa flashed his vintage form, tallying a team-high-tying 15 points and five boards that went for naught for Ginebra.
PHOENIX 79 – Wright 18, Intal 16, Enciso 11, W. Wilson 10, J. wilson 8, Lanete 5, Torres 5, Baguio 3, Borboran 2, Miranda 1, Caperal 0, Alolino 0
GINEBRA 73 – Tenorio 15, Caguioa 15, Thompson 10, Marcelo 10, Devance 8, Ferrer 7, Mercado 3, Cruz 3, Ellis 2, Taha 0, Helterbrand 0
Quarterscores: 17-10, 38-26, 57-47, 79-73