By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE BEST start in the Philippine Basketball Association of the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters came to an end on Sunday after they absorbed their first defeat in the ongoing Philippine Cup at the hands of the streaking Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94, in overtime.
After racking up five straight victories to open their campaign, the Fuel Masters tried to extend their winning streak but just could not get the breaks in the end in the tightly fought contest against the Elasto Painters (6-1), who, with the win, dislodged Phoenix from the top of the leaderboard.
While admitting the loss was a tough one for them, Phoenix coach Louie Alas said at 5-1 they do not have much to complain about and that they are still in good standing moving forward.
“The loss stings but we are at 5-1 and we cannot complain about that. We just have to improve on the next game and avoid losing two straight to stay on track of a top two finish in the elimination,” said Mr. Alas as he met members of media on his way out of the Smart Araneta Coliseum following their game on Sunday.
Against Rain or Shine, the Fuel Masters were kept at bay for much of the contest but showed resilience throughout to put themselves in a position to win in the end.
But in overtime the Elasto Painters just got the leverage to go on top, including a basket from Mark Borboran off a broken play with 12 seconds to go to ensure Rain or Shine got the win.
Last season’s rookie of the year Jason Perkins had a career-high 27 points for Phoenix to go along with nine rebounds.
Matthew Wright had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Calvin Abueva also had 16 markers while pulling down 12 boards for the Fuel Masters.
Following last Sunday’s game, Phoenix and the league take a two-week break to give way to Gilas Pilipinas’ bid in the sixth and final window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
It is a time off that the Fuel Masters will try make to make the most of to better themselves and prepare for the tougher challenges ahead, said Mr. Alas.
“That (break) has its pros and cons. Coming off a loss, of course, you want to get back right away. But on the other hand, it affords us time to assess what happened in this game and correct our mistakes,” the Phoenix coach said.
“We just have to keep improving, especially on defense. To win against the heavyweights you have to rely on stop after stop after stop. We have to learn doing that consistently,” added Mr. Alas.
Phoenix next plays on Feb. 27, the first play date after the break, against the Northport Batang Pier.