Phoenix and NorthPort duel in no-tomorrow for No. 8 seed
As far as coach Topex Robinson is concerned, Phoenix Super LPG turned in its best basketball in the PBA Governors’ Cup in a losing stand against Meralco on Friday.
“Meralco was the better team. They were making their shots while we were struggling,” he told a pair of reporters on the heels of the Fuel Masters’ 109-90 defeat at the hands of the Bolts at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I told the team that it was our best basketball—the guys supposed to make those shots for us, took shots,” he added.
Interestingly, NorthPort felt it did the same despite a botched comeback against one of the tournament favorites in TNT via a 106-101 thriller that required an extra period to forge later that night.
“It still felt nice. I’m still happy over our performance,” said Batang Pier’s star veteran Arwind Santos. “Even after they (Tropang Giga) buried us, we did not break down. We were able to get back in the game. And as you saw earlier, we almost won.”
If both teams found their finest forms in defeat, they need to cough up something better on Sunday as they battle at 6:30 p.m. at the cavernous Big Dome with the last playoff spot at stake.
“I’ve got to be better,” said Matthew Wright, the Fuel Master’s cornerstone who had 13 points and 10 assists but was hardly felt when Meralco got going in the third frame.
“I’ll tell the team that I need to be better—and I will be better this Sunday,” he added.
The veteran Santos, for his part, already began to prime himself as soon as he emerged from the NorthPort dugout.
“Phoenix had a game earlier. We also played, but we finished a little later, playing through overtime. So we really need to rest up,” said the former Most Valuable Player, who has been powering NorthPort since the reboot with an average of 17 points per contest.
“This [game against TNT] was not meant for us, and we’ve moved on from it. We’re ready for Sunday,” he added.
It will be the second-straight time Phoenix will be shooting to catch the last playoff bus. It can be recalled that the Fuel Masters battled Barangay Ginebra in a you-or-me for the eighth seed in this season’s Philippine Cup, which the latter won, 95-85.
NorthPort, meanwhile, hopes to go deeper in the playoffs this season. The Batang Pier wound up as the fifth seed in the all-Filipino showpiece, only to run into the mighty San Miguel Beermen, who swept their best-of-three series.
The Batang Pier will have the comfort of knowing they have beaten the Fuel Masters in this conference, emerging 101-93 victors in a duel last Feb. 26.
But that hardly matters in a no-tomorrow encounter. And the additional playing dates may hardly matter for the winner of the knockout match, in fact, as it heads straight into a duel with No. 1 Magnolia, which owns twice-to-beat protection in the quarterfinal round.
But the past and the future do not matter for either team.
“As much as I want to cry about [the loss], I cannot take away the fact that Meralco played better this afternoon. I’m gonna go by that,” said Robinson. “There’s still hope for us—an opportunity waiting for us.”
“Our immediate goal is to make the quarters,” Santos said.