Phoenix soars higher

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Phoenix soars higher
Phoenix guard RR Garcia drives to the basket against Meralco forward cliff Hodge during their game last night at the Smart araneta coliseum.
STAR / File

Fuel Masters beat Bolts, gain ‘win-once’ incentive

MANILA, Philippines — Phoenix stepped on the gas and reached its intended destination in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.

Greased by the strong performances of import Johnathan Williams III and locals Jason Perkins, RJ Jazul and Tyler Tio, the Fuel Masters zapped Meralco, 93-83, to claim a coveted Top 4 seeding and twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Williams was a steady anchor as always, producing 19 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and a block. Perkins (game-high 22 spiked by four triples), Tio (15) and Jazul (13, including a booming trey that silenced rallying Meralco) surrounded “J3” with sufficient support from the home boys in the crucial gig.

“He’s (Williams) leading the team statistically; he’s our leader in points, rebounds and assists. But before this game, coach (Jamike Jarin) told us it’s our job as locals to actually blend in with him and provide support,” said Tio.

Phoenix chalked up its eighth win in 10 games to seize solo second behind Magnolia’s 9-2. More importantly, the troops of Jarin assured themselves of the win-once bonus in the Last-8 for the first time since the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble.

Jazul, the senior statesman of the youth-laden Fuel Masters, left a big imprint in this all-important victory.

After Meralco cut Phoenix’ 14-point lead to only five going to the last two minutes, Jazul played the role of stabilizer and even put the Fuel Masters to a more comfortable zone, 91-83, with a big-time three-pointer.

Phoenix then held the Bolts scoreless the rest of the way while adding an insurance layup from Perkins off a Williams assist to wrap it up.

“We wanted the ball on RJ because we’re a very young team. I was telling RJ he’s been in these situations a thousand times before and we wanted him to make the right decisions for us (in the end game),” said Jarin of their skipper, who had five points in the final push.

The Bolts fell to 7-3 for a tie with idle San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra, their bid for the quarterfinal incentives in jeopardy. Meralco needs to beat Terrafirma tomorrow and due to their inferior tiebreak against the Beermen and the Gins, they hope either of the two or both would get stuck at seven wins to salvage a quarterfinal advantage.

Meralco import Shonn Miller, who had 33-22 in their 85-80 road win over the Hotshots in Iloilo, was held to 19 on 9-of-14 clip and nine rebounds in a foul-riddled outing.

Chris Banchero and Chris Newsome chipped in 15 and 13, respectively, for the Bolts, who couldn’t match the sustained energy of the well-rested Fuel Masters.

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