by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – NLEX vs Columbian
6:45 p.m. – NorthPort vs Ginebra
Phoenix Pulse ended Blackwater’s surprising start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup but not after surviving some anxious moments to escape with a 103-98 victory last night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fuel Masters nearly lost a 19-point lead as the Elite bucked the ejection of coach Aries Dimaunahan late in the third to pull within two points late in the fourth.
Blackwater got another break when RJ Jazul split his two free throws with 4.2 seconds left to make it 101-98 for Phoenix but Mac Belo and Allein Maliksi lost the ball off the inbound after the two collided at the corner.
Matthew Wright scored 22 points while import Rob Dozier produced 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks as the Fuel Masters jumpstarted their bid to improve on their breakthrough semifinal showing in the Philippine Cup.
Coach Louie Alas was glad his boys weathered off Blackwater’s uprising after the outcome looked moot and academic when Dozier scored to give Phoenix a 93-74 lead with barely eight minutes to go in the fourth.
“Hindi tsamba yung ginagawa nila, trinabaho nila yun,” Alas said of the Blackwater side that came to the match having won its first three games.
Rookie Ray Parks Jr. finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and two steals while import Alex Stepheson posted 24 points and 18 rebounds in the defeat.
Dimaunahan was tossed with less than a minute left in the third and Phoenix leading 80-69 for flagrant misconduct when he vehemently contested the officiating and subsequently slamming his hand on the scorers’ table.
The Elite would eventually showed some fight when Parks, Stepheson, Maliksi, Belo and rookie Matt Salem led the rally with key plays on both ends.
Meanwhile, NorthPort’s bid to remain unbeaten after four games will be put to the test against defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Petron Saturday Special affair at the same venue.
PHOENIX 103 – Wright 22, Dozier 18, Jazul 17, Perkins 16, Abueva 13, Mallari 8, Chua 7, Kramer 2, Revilla 0, Intal 0, Marcelo 0, Wilson 0.
BLACKWATER 98 – Parks 25, Stepheson 24, Belo 12, Sumang 10, Tratter 7, Maliksi 6, Al-Hussaini 6, Digregorio 4, Cortez 2, Alolino 2, Salem 0.
Quarters: 15-17, 41-41, 80-71, 103-98.