MATTHEW Wright buried free throws in the clutch as Phoenix Pulse finally notched its first win in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals with a 92-90 victory over San Miguel on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Wright hit the crucial free throws after breaking an 86-86 deadlock as the Fuel Masters broke their losing spell in a highly physical Game Three to cut the Beermen's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The Fuel Masters, though, had to endure several anxious moments.
After JC Intal failed to seal the win by blowing a pair of free throws, Phoenix had to hold its breath as Chris Ross missed a three-pointer and Terrence Romeo failed to convert a jumper in the final possession of the game.
Phoenix Pulse will look to tie the series on Tuesday in Game Four at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Wright finished with 18 points and shot seven of eight from the free throw line, while Calvin Abueva had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Fuel Masters, who led by as many as 11 points and hang tough until the final buzzer.
“Sabi ko nga, hindi tayo puwedeng maglaro ng less than 48 minutes of consistent basketball. Kailangan 48 and up. At least, until the end, nakaka-execute kami. I have to commend them because of their resiliency,” said Phoenix Pulse coach Louie Alas.
The Fuel Masters even led by 10 points early in the third period, but the Beermen not only made the game close but even took the lead briefly, 66-64, entering the fourth.
June Mar Fajardo tied the game for the last time at 86 on a free throw with 1:30 left.
San Miguel, however, was unable to take the lead as Terrence Romeo couldn’t convert on an open three-point attempt. Wright was fouled in transition, which led to two free throws for an 88-86 Phoenix lead.
Wright increased the lead to four points, 90-86, after a missed corner jumper by Alex Cabagnot.
Fajardo had 22 points, 19 rebounds, and two blocks, while Cabagnot had 18 points and six assists for San Miguel.
Phoenix Pulse 92 – Abueva 18, Wright 18, Chua 15, Jazul 14, Perkins 8, Intal 8, Kramer 5, Revilla 4, Mallari 2, Napoles 0, Mendoza 0, Dennison 0, Marcelo 0, Guevarra 0.
San Miguel 90 – Fajardo 22, Cabagnot 18, Romeo 16, Standhardinger 16, Ross 8, Pessumal 3, Santos 3, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Zamar 0, Tubid 0.
Quarters: 21-19; 40-36; 64-66; 92-90.