Breakthrough for Fuel Masters
Looks like they’re the real deal this time.
The biggest flop of the 2018
Governors’ Cup, the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters get another chance to redeem themselves by topping the ongoing Philippine Cup eliminations at the expense of no less than the defending champion and history-seeking San Miguel Beermen in a Petron Blaze Saturday Special in Panabo, Davao del Norte.
With Mathew Wright and last year’s top rookie Jason Perkins again shining in the clutch, Phoenix downed SMB, 96-93, to cap a glorious 2-win, 1-loss run against the league’s three champions last year and boosted the Fuel Masters to the No. 1 spot with an unassailable 9-2 record.
Wright and Perkins also took turns in lifting Phoenix past Governors’ Cup champion Magnolia, 89-87, last March 6 before the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, the Commissioner’s Cup winners last year, stopped the Fuel Masters, 100-97, four days later to avoid what would have been an embarrassing Phoenix sweep of all three powerhouse teams under the San Miguel Corp. banner.
In dealing a fourth loss in 10 games on the Beermen, who are seeking a record fifth straight title in the all-Filipino tournament, the Fuel Masters boosted their stock no end when they again shoot for a breakthrough semifinal slot with a twice-to-beat incentive, this time against the eighth and last quarterfinal qualifier.
Phoenix and import Eugene Phelps also enjoyed the same twice-to-beat bonus as No. 2 in the last Governors’ Cup eliminations, but the Meralco Bolts, who qualified as No. 7, ousted the Fuel Masters with two victories in the playoffs behind Allen Durham.
With SMB out of the way, Rain or Shine, the only other conqueror of Phoenix so far, clinched a tie for the No. 2 qualifying slot with a final 8-3 record after downing Meralco, 88-85.
The TNT KaTropa can also finish at 8-3 with expected wins over lowly Columbian Dyip and NorthPort. Ginebra also has an outside chance at 4-3 but the Kings need to sweep their last four games.
The race for the last two berths of the eight-team quarterfinal cast provides an exciting final week for the tournament before the All-Star break this Sunday.