Yap back in vintage form; Phelps still hot
Former two-time MVP James Yap finally recalled his brilliant past while Eugene Phelps remained explosive as ever as Rain or Shine and Phoenix Petroleum hacked out scrambling victories that lifted the curtains on the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup last week.
Saying he’s in much better shape than in the recent Philippine Cup following his trade by Star for RoS guard Paul Lee at the start of the season, Yap unloaded his most prolific performance as an Elasto Painter with a team-high 26 points that lifted the defending champion Rain or Shine past its former coach Yeng Guiao and the NLEX Road Warriors, 113-105, last Friday.
The league’s Most Valuable Player in 2006 (for Purefoods) and 2010 (for B-Meg) delivered half of his total output in the most critical moments of the last quarter while teaming up with Raymond Almazan, the RoS contribution to the Gilas national pool, who is back in action after an injury late in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Known as Big Game James in the past, Yap’s best effort in 12 games in the Commissioner’s Cup was just 17 points, which came in a losing effort against Meralco. Used sparingly as he groped for his old shooting touch, he also had 16 as RoS lost to Alaska and converted 15 during a blowout win over Blackwater.
Phelps, on the other hand, was the same scoring demon of old, firing 53 points while playing on borrowed time as the Fuel Masters nipped the Blackwater Elite in double overtime, 118-116, last Saturday.
The Elite forged overtime at 100-all as Phelps failed to complete a three-point play with 49 seconds left and forced another extension at 110-110 behind their own efficient reinforcement in NBA veteran Greg Smith.
But the well-built, 6-foot-5 Phelps, who also grabbed 21 rebounds, capped a 6-2 start by Phoenix in the second extra period with his last four points for a 116-112 lead and personally secured the win by deflecting the three-point attempt by Roi Sumang in the dying seconds.
Phelps, who scored 52 and 45 points in his first two games as mid-conference import substitute by Phoenix in last season’s Governors’ Cup, was tapped as temporary reinforcement while the Fuel Masters wait for a replacement for Jarrid Famous, their original choice who turned out to have availability issues.
Fresh from competing in Taiwan, Phelps is expected to return to Puerto Rico late this week and play in a league where he is known as El Destructor.
Smith acquitted himself well for Blackwater with 37 points and 30 rebounds.
Meralco earlier downed Mahindra, 94-86, while Alaska posted the tournament’s first lopsided win in a 107-79 rout of GlobalPort.
Although he scored only 11 points, Meralco was happy with the defense and inside presence of import Alex Stepheson, who grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked three shots. The returning James White paced Mahindra with 33 points.
The absence of scoring whiz Terrence Romeo, who was sick, severely handicapped GlobalPort and import Sean Williams proved of no help when he ran into foul trouble early.
Alaska, hardly missing the injured JV Casio, Vic Manuel and Dondon Hontiveros, roared to a 47-34 lead in the second quarter and was never headed. Although playing a day after his arrival, import Corey Jefferson paced Alaska with 28 points. Williams had 18 for the Batang Pier behind the 27 of Stanley Pringle.
With games set on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the league follows the same elimination format as the Philippine Cup with the top eight teams moving into the quarterfinals. All ties will be decided by the PBA quotient system except for the deadlock for No. 8 that will require a one-game playoff.