McKay, Phoenix hold off Alaska
Going into Friday night’s game, Phoenix Petroleum knew exactly what was at stake, and the Fuel Masters worked as hard as they could to grind out their franchise’s first win over Alaska.
“Everyone knows that we have to start winning,” coach Ariel Vanguardia said after getting 42 points and 22 rebounds from import Jameel McKay in a 94-86 win over the depleted Aces in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We can’t afford to be left [in the bottom half] of the standings,” he went on, referring to qualifying as the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs and facing a near-impossible task in the first round.
In the nightcap, TNT KaTropa rolled to a fifth straight victory after scoring a 109-88 ripping of GlobalPort as the Texters stayed on track for a top two finish.
Donte Greene had 33 points and 10 rebounds as he led the Texters in dealing Batang Pier their fifth loss in six games.
McKay played his finest game on Philippine soil and registered the second 40-20 game as the Fuel Masters rose to 3-4 to stay solidly in the hunt toward a middle-of-the-pack finish that would mean a level playing field in the quarterfinals.
The braid-haired import cramped up with 1:22 left after giving it all, and Vanguardia joked about having his import wash his car after the game.
Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul, former Aces who have loads of responsibilities with their new squad, finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively, to provide solid support to McKay.
And Vanguardia said that a pep talk with the former Alaska stalwarts on Holy Wednesday gave them the confidence to step up.
“I told them that [Alaska] was your family and that I haven’t felt that [they] are with us now,” Vanguardia said. “This is business and I know that they are your friends, but you guys have to step up.”
Alaska played without Calvin Abueva, Chris Banchero, Vic Manuel and Noy Baclao—practically its core—and couldn’t come up with a solid finishing kick despite getting 24 second half points from import Cory Jefferson.
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