Phoenix rides 'fairytale' run into PBA semis clash vs No. 1 Magnolia

Phoenix rides ‘fairytale’ run into PBA semis clash vs No. 1 Magnolia

/ 12:52 AM January 22, 2024

Phoenix Fuel Masters PBA

Phoenix Fuel Masters during the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—It’s a tale as old as time–a juggernaut being challenged by an unlikely warrior.

Goliath had David, Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier.

In the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, Phoenix portrays the same underdog role against league heavyweight Magnolia.

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“They are the favorites even before the start of the conference so we got our hands full. They took care of business last time so they’re very well-rested,” said Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin after their 88-84 victory over Meralco at Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday.

“Credit doesn’t go to me. Credit goes to everybody. We all worked our butts off, especially this guy on my left (Jason Perkins). They make me look good… The fairytale continues.”

Jarin wasn’t wrong by any means when he talked about Magnolia.

The Hotshots were the clear favorites even before the start of the conference after their dominant preseason showing.

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Headlined by locals Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon, Mark Barroca and James Laput, Magnolia completed an 11-game sweep in the PBA on Tour.

As if that wasn’t enough, coach Chito Victolero struck a gem of an import with Tyler Bey for the Commissioner’s Cup that had the Hotshots winning their first seven games, matching their franchise-best start.

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Playing like a well-oiled machine, Magnolia finished atop the standings at the end of the elimination round with a 9-2 record.

But while the Hotshots clinching the top seed was expected, the young Fuel Masters came out of nowhere and found themselves in the upper echelon.

Phoenix Fuel Masters coach Jamike Jarin PBA

Phoenix Fuel Masters coach Jamike Jarin.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

“We’re not supposed to be here. Nobody in the start of the conference predicted that we’ll be in the Top Four. We’re just happy to make it to the semifinals and we’ll continue to play harder and hopefully things fall our way and we win some games,” Jarin said.

“The pressure’s on them but they have a very good set of players and a very good head coach in coach Chito. We’ll rest our bodies, we’ll watch the film as soon as I get out of MOA to prepare for them and we’ll give them our best.”

Phoenix leaned on import Jonathan Williams and Jason Perkins, who combined for 40 points and 29 rebounds, to hang on and send Meralco home four nights after a triple overtime loss to the Bolts.

But as impressive as the two have been for the Fuel Masters, Perkins thinks Jarin deserves a lot of credit for the team’s success.

“We’re just following coach Jamike’s lead. Like he always says, we’re a very young team and we get very emotional. Even me, who’s older, I mess up a lot and I get emotional but coach Jamike helps us get back in place,” said Perkins. 

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“I wish the PBA has a Coach of the Year award ‘cause he would definitely be in there. He does a great job and I hope he gets recognized,” he added.

TAGS: Jamike Jarin, Jason Perkins, Magnolia Hotshots, PBA Commissioner's Cup, Phoenix Fuel Masters

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