With first playoff stint under Alas in sight, Phoenix raises its target
CAGAYAN De Oro—Within a win of a first playoff appearance under his watch, Louie Alas wants Phoenix Petroleum to aim a little higher.
“We’re in a good position and there’s nothing wrong dreaming for more,” Alas told the Inquirer after preparing his Fuel Masters for their crucial clash with Barangay Ginebra in a Petron Saturday Special playdate of the PBA Governors’ Cup at Xavier University here.
Being in the tournament lead, Alas can clinch a postseason berth for the first time with a win in the 5 p.m. contest, but more importantly, it will give his Fuel Masters some breathing room on their pursuers and the inside track for a twice-to-beat advantage in the first round of the playoffs which will be accorded the top four finishers.
“But first thing’s first, we have to beat Ginebra,” he said after a light workout witnessed by a throng as Alas emphasized the need to contain Ginebra import Justin Brownlee from dominating and try and minimize LA Tenorio’s playmaking abilities.
Ginebra will be coming into the game still without Sol Mercado and Greg Slaughter. Japeth Aguilar is also doubtful, according to Phoenix’s scouting reports.
“But that doesn’t mean that they are the weaker team in this game. We all saw how they beat San Miguel,” Alas said. “Coach Tim (Cone) is a master at making his bench play their best when they are undermanned, and I kept reminding my players of that.”
The Phoenix coach believes that Brownlee can beat any team by himself, and that he and coaching staff have come up with defensive schemes that could hopefully contain the two-time champion import.
“You can never stop him (Brownlee),” Alas said. “All you can hope for is contain him, limit him in a way. And I hope that we have devised the perfect defense to do that.”
With a 5-1 card and after Blackwater played listless in bowing to NLEX last Wednesday, the Fuel Masters and Alas found themselves in the lead heading into the final half of the elimination round.
They have never been in this position in a tournament before and a win Saturday would give Phoenix a full game’s buffer on the second-running Elite.
“Finishing in the top four would be a big bonus for us, it would put us closer to our goal,” Alas went on. “It would be very tough to be in the bottom half, needing to beat a top-seeded team two straight times.”
Eugene Phelps will continue to be the offensive anchor and the best man in the middle for Phoenix, which is anticipating the return of Aguilar to give Ginebra more ceiling.
Alas said he is certain that the 7-foot Slaughter and Mercado won’t be playing because “we practice in the same facility and I haven’t seen them at all.”
“But that doesn’t mean that Ginebra will be easy pickings,” he said. “Our main concerns are Brownlee and LA.”