Phoenix soaks in first victory under new coach even as battle against streaking squad looms
Jamike Jarin has yet to fully cherish his first-ever win as a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) coach when he was asked of the challenge that awaits Phoenix in about 48 hours.
“NLEX is one of the hottest teams right now,” Jarin said after the Fuel Masters picked up a 108-97 victory over the NorthPort Batang Pier in a battle of winless teams in the Governors’ Cup on Thursday.
“They won last night, they made a comeback. But we’ll enjoy this for the moment,” added the former UAAP high school and NCAA champion mentor who was tasked to call the shots following Topex Robinson’s departure to La Salle.
But Jarin and the Fuel Masters are surely thinking about the red-hot Road Warriors and import Jonathon Simmons, set to play his final PBA game before heading to China to resume his pro career.
Simmons has vowed to leave a lasting impression and hand NLEX a 4-0 start at Phoenix’s expense on Saturday at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Unless, of course, Phoenix can execute its own plans and spoil Simmons’ despedida (farewell) party.
Jarin was upbeat during the customary postgame press conference after his tenure began with losses to TNT, Blackwater and San Miguel Beer, where he put his team in a position to mount comebacks in all of those matches.
Adding to its early struggles is the absence of key player Javee Mocon, who is still nursing a knee injury and could miss at least a week or two.
On Thursday, however, the Fuel Masters found enough hot shooting to build a 26-point lead before thwarting any hopes of a rally by a Batang Pier side that remained without a victory in the season-ending conference.
Import Du’Vaughn Maxwell and Jason Perkins scored 26 points each while RJ Jazul and Sean Manganti were also key factors for the Fuel Masters, and gave Jarin his breakthrough moment in the big league.
“I’m happy for Coach Jamike,” said Perkins. “He’s a very positive coach, a very uplifting coach. Even if we lose, he doesn’t go out and blame his players. So after losses, we look at him.”
Phoenix led by a high of 26 in the third quarter at 79-53, but had to weather a big NorthPort storm when it fielded reserves like Kent Salado and JM Calma to backstop import Marcus Weathers.
Salado’s layup put the Batang Pier within five before the Fuel Masters were able to pull away again.
“It always has to be a team effort for everybody,” said Jarin. “It’s very hard, especially that we’re missing Javee Mocon with the injury. So we’re very happy with the performance of everybody, especially in this game.”