PHOENIX did the work early before weathering a late GlobalPort storm, hacking out a 104-100 victory on Friday night to be assured of at least a playoff for the last quarterfinal spot in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Fuel Masters built a 31-point cushion that was just enough to withstand a furious fightback by the Batang Pier to hold on to the hard-earned victory, to finish the eliminations at 5-6 that tied their victims.
Matthew Wright sparked the early surge as he fired 22 of his 32 points in the first half for the Fuel Masters, who can still climb to seventh seed if Rain or Shine wins against Ginebra in the second game.
Despite the loss, GlobalPort is still through to the playoffs, ending up either sixth or seventh seed depending on the result of the second game between the Gin Kings and the E-Painters.
"Good thing we had a huge, huge lead,” Phoenix coach Louie Alas said. “We don’t know how to finish until now.”
“But sabi ng mga idol kong coaches, a win is a win, but we have to learn from it,” he added.
After all, the Fuel Masters saw a 66-35 lead early in the third quarter disappear after seeing the Batang Pier – who have essentially advanced to the quarterfinals regardless of the result – still play like it’s a do-or-die game.
The Batang Pier came closest at four points, 102-98, following a Terrence Romeo fastbreak layup off a Stanley Pringle no-look pass with 26.3 second left, before the Fuel Masters held on.
Jeff Chan also delivered for Phoenix with 18 points, all but one in the first three quarters, although the last one came from the charity stripe that put the Fuel Masters up, 104-98.
Romeo led the Batang Pier in his first game back from a knee injury, finishing with 20 points in 30 minutes off the bench, while Sean Anthony added 17 points, eight boards, five assists, three blocks, and two steals.
Pringle chipped in 16 markers, 10 assists, six boards, and three steals, while Yousef Taha stepped up after Kelly Nabong was ejected late in the first half, leading the comeback that fell short in the payoff period where he scored all but two of his 12 points that went for naught.
PHOENIX 104 – Wright 32, Chan 18, Alolino 10, Jazul 10, Wilson 9, Kramer 8, Perkins 7, Eriobu 4, Mendoza 4, Intal 2, Cortes 0, Guevarra 0
GLOBALPORT 100 – Romeo 20, Anthony 17, Pringle 16, Taha 12, Elorde 12, Grey 9, Gabayni 7, Guinto 6, Flores 1, Sargent 0, Juico 0, Teng 0, Nabong 0
Quarterscores: 32-16, 63-45, 86-67, 104-100