THE road to relevance started for Blackwater as it held off Phoenix, 94-87, on Wednesday in their opening game in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Eager to shed their tag as league’s cellar-dwellers, the Elite kept the Fuel Masters at bay before weathering their late stand to score their first win in an opening game in their three-year history in the league.
Mac Belo was as good as advertised, scoring 17 points capped by a right-corner jumper that gave the Elite the necessary insurance points. The rookie finished one rebound from tallying a double-double debut.
Art dela Cruz also shone by putting up an all-around showing of 12 points, 10 boards, and four assists as the Elite spoiled Simon Enciso’s 25 points built around seven triples in a virtual one-man rally for the Fuel Masters.
“This is our best start,” Elite coach Leo Isaac said. “It’s a new season and new hope for us, but all the excitement must be translated to ‘Ws.’”
The Elite were starting to break loose from a see-saw game as Belo buried that right-corner jumper that gave them an 87-80 lead with a little less than two minutes left, but Enciso retaliated with a trey from top of the key to stay within striking distance.
The Elite, though, converted their charities courtesy of playmakers Denok Miranda and John Pinto from thereon to preserve the result.
Dylan Ababou and James Forrester also contributed in quality minutes in their first game for the Elite.
BLACKWATER 94 – Belo 17, Dela Cruz 12, Miranda 11, Ababou 9, Buenafe 8, Pinto 8, Forrester 7, Pascual 7, Sena 6, Aguilar 4, Banal 3, Cervantes 2
PHOENIX 87 – Enciso 25, Intal 12, Alolino 11, Wilson W. 10, Borboran 6, Caperal 6, Wilson J. 5, Baguio 4, Lanete 4, Torres 4, Hayes 0, Miranda 0, Javillonar 0
Quarterscores: 27-23, 45-43, 71-69, 94-87