By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
PHILIPPINE Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup action goes on the road today with a double-header at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters (2-1) battle the winless NLEX Road Warriors (0-3) in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. while struggling teams Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (0-2) and Blackwater Elite (0-4) tussle in the main game at 7 p.m.
Phoenix goes into its match with NLEX off an impressive 89-87 come-from-behind win over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok on May 6 where sophomore guard Matthew Wright drained a huge three-pointer down the stretch to help complete their comeback win.
The team trailed for much of the contest but it showed tremendous grit and determination to fight back and eventually was rewarded for it.
Magnolia held a two-point lead, 87-85, with 15 ticks to go, more than enough time it turned out for the Fuel Masters to snatch the victory.
Off a timeout, Phoenix set up the play that enabled Mr. Wright to make things happen, which he delivered to accordingly, pulling back for a triple with 3.2 seconds left to give his team the lead, 88-87.
A free throw by Mr. Wright after off a technical foul charged to Magnolia for calling an excessive timeout sealed the victory for Phoenix.
Gilas Pilipinas member Wright led the Fuel Masters with 19 points with import James White adding the same number of points. Veteran Willie Wilson had 17.
“It was a lucky shot but we will take it. We came out flat to start the game and good thing we were able recover. This is a big win for us heading to our next game against NLEX which I’m sure is very hungry after losing three straight,” said Phoenix coach Louie Alas following their win.
Staring at getting buried deeper in the tournament in the event of another loss, NLEX recognizes that it has to start turning things around.
The latest of the defeats of the Road Warriors was dealt by the Meralco Bolts, 106-90, on May 4 in a match that they trailed from start to finish.
Import Arnett Moultrie top-scored for NLEX with 25 points to go along with 17 rebounds in the loss with JR Quiñahan adding 18 markers.
“It’s disappointing because we played so well in the last conference. We’ve been making progress steadily, and then we come to this,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, referring to their semifinal finish in the Philippine Cup.
“To be in a hole like 0-3, it’s like an emergency situation. If we don’t pick it up in the next few games, I guess we will be looking forward to the next conference. It’s not what we’ve expected, but we just have to go back and evaluate what we’re doing wrong,” the fiery coach added.
Meanwhile, in the opening game, hard luck teams to date Barangay Ginebra and Blackwater try to notch their maiden win in the midseason PBA tournament.
The Kings have lost back-to-back matches to start their campaign with import Charles Garcia in tow and with big man Greg Slaughter still in sick bay.
Blackwater, meanwhile, has had it eventful so far but for not the good reasons, losing four straight and having to make a coaching change.