Dec 25, 2021

Despite absence of Harris, Phoenix stops the bleeding with victory over NLEX

PHOENIX Super LPG made sure its first-ever Christmas Day game would be special by pulling off a 102-93 victory over erstwhile unbeaten NLEX Saturday in the PBA Governors' Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Matthew Wright and Justin Chua came up with their best games of the tournament while the rest of their teammates provided ample support as the Fuel Masters survived playing without Paul Harris for majority of the game to snap out of a two-game slide.

Wright finished with 23 points and nine rebounds while Chua added 19 points and six rebounds in leading three other locals who scored in double figures for Phoenix, which now totes a 3-2 record following the match, part of the two-day Christmas Special dubbed as "Season of Joy" and supported by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte as her "Pamaskong Handog" to her constituents.

"These guys are really motivated, especially our leaders," said Phoenix coach Topex Robinson, who also got a very pleasant gift on his 46th birthday.

"Matt there, as bad as we played our last two games, he just said we just have to keep on playing, that it's either we go all the way with three losses or we stop the streak of NLEX," added Robinson.

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"We just made sure that after this game we'll be the tiredest team. It means na we'll be giving everything out - kung anuman meron kami, the fight in us."

Making the victory sweeter is the fact it was fashioned despite Harris pulling himself out just 2:38 into the game after feeling something "tricky" on either his calf or foot, according to Robinson.

"He said he doesn't think he could play at 100 percent and he'd rather sit down and check on it first before playing," related Robinson. "Our medical staff said we don't want to gamble on him until we're sure of what the cause was."

Ultimately, there was no real need for Harris to force himself back into the game as his teammates made sure there would be no meltdowns like in their recent games against Rain or Shine and Barangay Ginebra.

Aljun Melecio scored eight of his 12 points in the third period and joined hands with Wright and Chua in yanking Phoenix out of a 55-57 hole and into a 72-67 lead before the trio of Wright, Chua and Chris Banchero, who had 17 points, made sure Phoenix stayed ahead.

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Calvin Oftana scattered 13 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth period to repeatedly keep the Road Warriors within striking distance but to no avail.

Oftana also led NLEX with 11 rebounds and KJ McDaniels had his own double-double of 12 and 10. But his points are 21 below his league-best average with his shooting struggles trickling down to the other Road Warriors except for Oftana and Don Trollano (16 points). (NC)

The Scores:

Phoenix 102 - Wright 23, Chua 19, Banchero 17, Melecio 12, Perkins 10, Jazul 8, Demusis 4, Manganti 2, Harris 2, Garcia 2, Rios 2, Camacho 1, Muyang 0.

NLEX 93 - Oftana 18, Trollano 16, McDaniels 12, Alas 11, Varilla 10, Paniamogan 8, Rosales 8, Quinahan 6, Cruz 4, Semerad 0.

Quarters: 26-18, 49-43, 72-67, 102-93