SMART Clark Giga City. - In an endgame duel of gutsy players, Matthew Wright won over Paul Lee.
Wright capped his 32-point performance with a triple, lifting Phoenix Super LPG over Magnolia Ang Pambansa, 89-88, Saturday and into the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.
Lee tried to answer back, but his step back jumper was a tad wide and Calvin Abueva hauled down the defensive rebound that sealed the win which the second-seeded Fuel Masters needed to dispose of the seventh-ranked Hotshots via the short route.
As a result, Phoenix now faces early qualifier TNT in the best-of-five semis starting Wednesday, a stint which coach Topex Robinson described as nothing short of otherworldly.
"It's just so magical for us," said Robinson, appointed to take over the helm in an interim capacity only last September before being formally elevated to his post early this month.
"We're just so blessed to be here, to grind it out with one of the best teams, a well-coached team," added Robinson. "Credit goes to (Magnolia) coach Chito (Victolero) and the coaching staff for really giving us a super good experience that we're gonna bringing along dito sa semis."
Jason Perkins also lent a hand to the Fuel Masters' second straight semis stint in the import-less tourney with 17 points he capped with a jumper that pegged the ninth and last deadlock at 86-all.
Needing to win to force a decider on Monday, Magnolia seemed well on its way after Ian Sangalang connected on a short hook off Lee's pass to give the Hotshots the upper hand, 88-86.
Magnolia's hopes were even raised higher when Abueva's inbound pass was stolen by Rome dela Rosa, but Sangalang and Mark Barroca each turned the ball over in successive possessions.
That paved the way for Wright's heroics. He did miss an initial three-point heave, but RJ Jazul got the offensive rebound, and passed off to Wright who calmly dribbled free of the defense before hitting the runner, sparking wild celebrations on the Phoenix bench.
Lee wound up with 16 points and six assists, while Sangalang 15 markers and 11 rebounds for the Hotshots, who crashed the quarterfinals on the strength of a six-game winning run. (NC)
PHOENIX 89 - Wright 32, Perkins 16, Jazul 9, Abueva 6, Chua 5, Heruela 5, Rios 5, Intal 3, Reyes 3, Mallari 3, Garcia 2, Marcelo 0.
MAGNOLIA 88 - Lee 17, Sangalang 15, Barroca 15, Dela Rosa 11, Banchero 9, Melton 9, Jalalon 8, Reavis 4, Dionisio 0, Corpuz 0.
Quarters: 24-21; 37-39 ; 66-63 ; 89-88.