PHOENIX continued to rally behind Eugene Phelps and the rewards keep coming.
More balanced was the offensive effort of Phoenix, although a little reminder from coach Louie Alas also went a long way in steadying the Fuel Masters' drive after they blew an early 13-point lead.
Phelps emerged with game-highs of 36 points and 20 rebounds in powering Phoenix to a 95-82 victory over previously unbeaten Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok Sunday in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Phelps made 11 of 21 field goal tries and also had four blocked shots in atoning for a 14-for-26 clip from the stripe while giving his teammates immeasurable confidence boost that pointed them to a third straight win.
As an offshoot, Phoenix managed to break off for good in the fourth period before officially stretching its best start ever with a fifth win in six games to lie just behind unbeaten leader Blackwater.
The loss was the first in three games for Magnolia despite Romeo Travis notching 28 points and 19 rebounds and Mark Barroca, Ian Sangalang and Jio Jalalon chipping in 11 points apiece.
"First half we started strong. But nu'ng nakita na lumamang kami bumalik dating habit naming," related Alas. "That's why I told them, 'Show your maturity.' Ang feeling kasi namin kanina, we'll just keep on matching them mananalo na kami. Sabi ko, 'This is not the case here. Last time na naglaro tayo sa Cuneta (Astrodome), we were up by 10 in the fourth quarter then easily nahabol.'
"Sabi ko. 'Show your maturity.' Iyun naman naging sagot nila sa third quarter. Best quarter namin sa game third quarter."
Indeed, Phoenix did not panic despite getting caught and even overtaken by Magnolia, wresting the back the upper hand before taking full control in the fourth period where Phelps scored eight of his points.
Travis' short stab brought the Hotshots within 72-75, but that proved to be their last gasp as Wright, Phelps, LA Revilla and Calvin Abueva joined hands for a 7-0 surge before Abueva and Phelps stretched their lead to 87-75, 3:34 left.
Wright added 13 points, Chua 12 and Abueva nine points and 10 rebounds. Revilla also had nine markers, four assists and as many steals.
Alas was also visibly pleased with his charges' defensive efforts as they limited Magnolia to a 29-for-90 field goal shooting and harassed it into committing 19 turnovers. With Phelps leading the way, Phoenix also had 11 blocks.
The Fuel Masters committed just one less miscue, but scored seven more turnover points while also making 33 of 71 field goal tries.
"We were able to put the clamps on their offensive guys," said Alas.
That trend was apparent right in the opening quarter, which saw Phoenix racing to a 30-19 lead before stretching it to 42-29, early in the second.
Magnolia, however, bounced right back with a 29-point second quarter, behind Travis' 11 points, to tie it at 48 at the break. Then the Hotshots' shooting woes returned and they found themselves down by 67-71 entering the final canto. (NC)
Phoenix 95 - Phelps 36, Wright 13, Chua 12, Abueva 9, Revilla 9, Jazul 9, Perkins 7, Intal 0, Wilson 0.
Magnolia 82 - Travis 28, Barroca 11, Sangalang 11, Jalalon 11, Lee 8, Ramos 6, Dela Rosa 3, Melton 2, Gamalinda 2, Pascual 0, Reavis 0, Brondial 0, Herndon 0.
Quarters: 30-19, 48-48, 71-67, 95-82.