REDEN Celda just showed why coach Johnedel Cardel can't wait for him to return to action.
Celda marked his return from a two-game absence by banking in the game-winner in Columbian's 100-98 triumph over Phoenix Pulse Saturday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The floater capped Celda's 17-point, eight-assist performance and complemented the other splendid work put in by the other Dyip, led by Lester Prosper, Rashawn McCarthy and CJ Perez.
"Celda had a big game coming off an injury," simply said Cardel of his point guard whom he initially wanted back in harness from a hip injury to help ease the pressure on McCarthy and Perez in the backcourt.
Like what he did in the big upset over San Miguel Beer last Sunday, Glenn Khobuntin again also came up huge in the endgame with an emphatic block on a driving RJ Jazul that led to Celda's basket in the ensuing play.
"I told them: 'Just play your game, have fun inside and focus on their tendencies.' So nangyari naman and we came away with a win from this game," said Cardel.
The win was only the third in 10 games for Columbian, which stayed at 11th-running spot. If it wins over Barangay Ginebra anew on Sunday, it could even tie for the last berth in the eight-team quarterfinals.
Cardel is going to cross that bridge only if he gets there. "I know we'll have a hard time na makapasok kami, maybe wala na. Pero I told the boys na two games kung p'wede kunin namin... strong finish for this conference," he said.
The loss is a big one for Phoenix. Not only was its two-game winning run cut short it also dropped to a 4-5 record stay at sixth and needing to win its last two games against SMB on Wednesday and NLEX on Friday to gain entry into the next round.
Prosper, whose goal-tending led to a 108-110 loss to NorthPort last Wednesday, helped put the Fuel Masters in such a precarious situation by finishing with 25 points and 21 rebounds. He actually scored only six points in the entire second half but boomed in his lone triple of the game to give the Dyip a 98-95 lead.
Well before that, McCarthy added 19 points and four dimes while Perez helped pick up the scoring slack from Prosper with 14 of his 18 points in the last 24 minutes of play, including six in the decisive fourth period.
Going for naught were Richard Howell's gamehighs of 35 points, 23 rebounds and seven steals, Matthew Wright's 23 points and Jazul's 12 points and nine assists.
In the end, Columbian won despite committing 24 turnovers, giving Phoenix, which had nine less miscues, a 30-22 advantage in turnover points.
Howell seemed well on his way to making Columbian for those errors by scattering 12 points in each of the last two quarters with Wright chipping in 12 and Jazul eight of their points in the second half as well.
Still, and notwithstanding Prosper's scoring silence, the Dyip were able to hold on to a 73-71 edge after the third quarter and even erected an 84-75 bulge off Celda's third triple of the game, still 9:21 left.
True to their nature, the Fuel Masters waged a gallant fightback and eventually tied the game for the last time at 98 off a Wright corner trey, 32.6 seconds left.
Following a timeout, a driving Perez lost the ball to Howell, who forwarded it to Jazul for what should have been a layup, only to be foiled by Khobuntin. (NC)
Columbian 100 - Prosper 25, McCarthy 19, Perez 18, Celda 17, Khobuntin 6, Reyes 5, Camson 4, Escoto 4, Cahilig 2, Faundo 0, Tabi 0.
Phoenix 98 - Howell 35, Wright 23, Jazul 12, Intal 8, Mallari 7, Perkins 7, Chua 6, Kramer 0, Marcelo 0, Napoles 0, Dennison 0.
Quarters: 22-27, 49-40, 73-71, 100-98