Coach Louie Alas urged the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters to remain steadfast in playing defense after suffering their first loss in the PBA Philippine Cup.
"Naka-compete naman kami sa Rain or Shine kaya siguro kaya naman namin mag-compete sa mga elite teams," Alas said. "We just have to keep on improving, especially on defense.
Lapses on defense cost the Fuel Masters, who ended their franchise-best start at five games after absorbing a 98-94 overtime defeat to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The loss dropped Phoenix to second place behind Rain or Shine while leaving Alas and his coaching staff pondering on what course of action to take when the league goes on a two-week break.
The Fuel Masters play the NorthPort Batang Pier on Feb. 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After that, its all uphill climb for the Fuel Masters, who will battle Alaska on March 1 followed by last season's champions Magnolia (March 6), Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (March 10) and San Miguel Beer (March 16).
"Kasi para manalo ka dun sa mga heavyweights, talagang stop after stop after stop after stop. Yun ang kailangan matutunan namin," he added.
Phoenix trailed by 14 in the third as Rain or Shine leaned on another balanced scoring attack.
But Jason Perkins, last season's Rookie of the Year, hit 10 of his career-high 27 points in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix charge back and send the game in overtime.
Phoenix couldn't hold on though, as Mark Borboran scored on a layup off a broken play in the closing seconds of the extra period to seal the game for Rain or Shine.
"Kung gusto mo makapunta sa next level, kailangan makakuha ka ng stop sa crucial situations," Alas lamented. (JT)