Phoenix bangs up Kia
Eugene Phelps fueled Phoenix with just the right amount of firepower and didn’t even play in the crucial stretches of the final quarter.
It was the kind of control and authority that the Fuel Masters flaunted on opening night to stop the Kia Picanto on their tracks, 118-105, Wednesday at the start of the PBA Governors Cup.
A 6-foot-5 strapping bear of a man, Phelps failed to reach his desired 50-point output, but his dominating effort on the floor was enough to show everybody how he could make the Fuel Masters look really good.
“It was a good start for us. Our goal this conference is to go deep into the playoffs and hopefully figure in the semifinals,” said Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia.
NLEX also did not have to rely fully on Aaron Fuller during the crucial moments to scrape past Alaska, 112-104, later in the night.
Kevin Alas ferociously attacked the rim and JR Quiñahan knocked down an important three but it was the timely snipings of Juami Tiongson that did the trick for the Road Warriors.
Tiongson drilled a couple of threes and a floater that helped the Road Warriors create the separation that they needed in the end.
Fuller, a high-motor brawny forward from University of Southern California, powered his way to 30 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks.
The opening-night setback was the ninth straight for Aces, who ended their Commissioners Cup campaign last conference with eight consecutive losses.
The Fuel Masters also suffered an early exit last conference when they bowed to NLEX and Kia, which carried the Mahindra brand back then, that denied Phoenix the chance to secure the No. 6 ranking in the playoffs.
Now armed with a high-scoring import such as Phelps, the Fuel Masters are deadset to reverse their fortunes this time.
After Phelps churned out 33 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks early in the fourth period, Vanguardia benched him the rest of the way, his presence no longer necessary as the Picanto continued to shoot themselves in the foot.
Slasher JC Intal, RJ Jazul, Joseph Eriobu and the high-flying Cyrus Baguio completed the job for the Fuel Masters, all of them finishing in double figures.
“We got a pretty good team,” said Phelps, who breached the 50-point mark twice in an opening game for the Fuel Masters.
“As long as we keep getting better and better, I believe we could win games that we should win,” he added.