PHOENIX faces the very distinct possibility of missing out on a top two finish in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations, but coach Louie Alas is unperturbed.
"The good thing is, 'yung fate namin nasa amin," said Alas.
Alas spoke after the Fuel Masters absorbed a 97-100 loss to Barangay Ginebra last Sunday, snapping their three-game winning streak.
Now with an 8-2 record, Phoenix remained on top of the standings and on track for a top two finish that carries with it a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round against a lower-ranked team.
But the Fuel Masters' chances of copping that coveted spot, previously very bright, are now dimmed.
Right behind Phoenix are 7-3 Rain or Shine and 6-3 San Miguel Beer, the latter on a four-game roll.
Should the Elasto Painters prevail over Meralco on Friday and the Beermen win over Phoenix on Saturday in Panabo City and prevail over Alaska on March 24, then there would be a three-way tie for the lead.
Then the Fuel Masters would be out of the top two and relegated to a best-of-three duel, reserved for those ranked Nos. 3 to 6, in the next round.
"P'wede kaming mawala kapag nag-tie kami at 8-3 ng Rain or Shine and San Miguel," admitted Alas
According to Alas, his team could have avoided such a pitfall had it heeded his repeated calls before and during the Ginebra game.
"Masyadong nag-relax kami defensively. Akala namin tatalunin namin sa opensa," rued Alas.
"Iyon 'yung sinasabi ko sa inyo before," added Alas. "We thought na tatalunin namin sa shootout. Ang sabi ko sa kanila, 'Iyung panalo nating walo, isa lang 'yung opensa ipinanalo natin du'n. Lahat du'n depensa."
It's as if Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar was the one who took to heart Alas' words, swatting Calvin Abueva's undergoal stab in the last four seconds that would have razed the Kings' 98-97 edge.
Aljon Mariano then got the defensive rebound and made two charities, making it a three-point Kings lead that held when Matthew Wright's desperate buzzer-beating heave rattled off.
Alas can now look forward to the SMB game. "Pag tinalo namin ang San Miguel, No. 1 na kami. It's a tall order, but it can be done," he stated.
For his charges to recover and regain their focus, Alas has lined up a two-day break starting Monday before they go to Davao.
"Wala ka ng makukuha sa court niyan, e. Pagod na," said Alas. "I-be-break namin para makapagpahinga mentally." (NC)