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Sports

Do-or-die for Phoenix title showdown with SMB awaits Magnolia

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Do-or-die for Phoenix title showdown with SMB awaits Magnolia
Phoenix Super LPG defeats Magnolia Chicken Timplados, 103-85, extending the series 1-2 in their best of five semi-finals game at the Mall of Asia Arena on January 28, 2024.
STAR / Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Even with its youth-laden crew, Phoenix has shown its mettle in handling pressure-packed do-or-die situations.

The Fuel Masters put this on display by overcoming a more playoff-experienced Meralco in their quarterfinal sudden death, 88-84, to stretch their “fairytale” run in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Playoffs regular Magnolia buried them to a 0-2 hole in the race-to-three semis but instead of folding, the Fuel Masters took it head-on and hammered a 103-85 come-from-behind romp in Game 3.

Still in a life-or-death predicament, Jamike Jarin’s spirited charges have to do it a third time in tonight’s Game 4 if they want to draw level with the Hotshots and force one last duel for the right to face early finalist San Miguel Beer.

“These games (quarterfinal KO and Game 3) provided us with a lot of experience, I guess,” said Phoenix veteran Jason Perkins.

After bungling winnable situations in the first two games, Perkins and Co. learned their lessons and did the right things at the right moments to make it 2-1 Friday night.

Adding to the big boost in morale and confidence was the fact that Phoenix trailed by as many as 21 but turned things completely around and beat Magnolia by 18.

“We don’t look at the score when we play. We’re just out there trying our best every possession, starting with our offense, getting back on defense, and continuing as many stops as we can get,” he said.

That attitude, and the hard lessons learned from previous defeats, should serve them well when they attempt an encore in the 8 p.m. tiff at the MOA Arena.

“We know what to do in the endgame,” said Perkins. “We just need to execute, get organized, rebound, and play defense.”

Expect Magnolia, a proud team with championship pedigree and post-season experience, to come in with a similarly high sense of urgency and purpose as it seeks to follow the Beermen, 3-0 winner of ousted champ Ginebra, in the best-of-seven finale.

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