Fuel Masters ignore outside noise in thumping Road Warriors
Coach Topex Robinson and the Phoenix Fuel Masters would rather worry about the basketball side of things and not the financial issues that have put the future of their participation in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in doubt.
“We don’t have control of what’s going on around us. We are professionals and we are just acting like it,” Robinson said after the Fuel Masters’ 111-97 Commissioner’s Cup win over the NLEX Road Warriors Saturday at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Getting the breakthrough victory that snapped a 0-3 start behind rookie Tyler Tio came days after a Batangas court sent a garnishment notice to the league for a complaint over Phoenix’s unpaid debts.
The notice came after a bid by the Lucio Tan-owned Absolut Distillers Inc. to collect P157 million from the company of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.
Seventeen banks believed to have accounts and interests of Uy and Phoenix were also issued garnishments by Branch 14 of the Nasugbu Regional Trial Court.
Phoenix’s situation further raised the Fuel Masters’ woes, who aside from the slow start entered the conference with ace gunner Matthew Wright taking his talents to Japan’s B.League and Jason Perkins out with a knee injury.
“It’s a challenge,” Robinson admitted. “We owe it to the team to make sure that we’re gonna fight like hell. They’ve been so good to us [despite of] everything that is happening.”
Determined not to let himself be affected by the distractions, Tio came through with perhaps his best performance since being taken as a second round steal by the Fuel Masters in this year’s Rookie Draft.
The ex-Ateneo mainstay fired 18 of his 26 points in the second half, helping Phoenix take control after a seesaw battle with an NLEX side that finally had new coach Frankie Lim on the sidelines.
“I think the outside noise is just … there’s nothing we can do about it,” Tio said. “So as professionals, we owe it to ourselves and to our teammates to just do our jobs and that’s what we did.”
Javee Mocon (23 points, nine rebounds and six assists) and import Kaleb Wesson (22 points, 21 rebounds and seven assists) also delivered for Phoenix in the result the team hopes would be a sign of promise amid uncertain times.
It was NLEX’s first loss after going 2-0 to open the midseason conference, denying Lim a winning start in his official debut as man tapped to succeed Yeng Guiao.Import Earl Clark’s 36 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists couldn’t help lift NLEX to another victory.
TNT claimed a dominant 117-93 victory over NorthPort that shook off the ill effects of the heartbreaking 94-92 loss to the Magnolia last Wednesday. The Batang Pier dropped to 2-2.
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