Phoenix did just enough in the endgame to fend off Global Port, 104-100, last night and keep alive its hopes of making the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Matthew Wright scored a season-high 32 points, but it was the likes of RJ Jazul, Jason Perkins and Jeff Chan who propped the Fuel Masters in the stretch in the face of a searing Batang Pier fightback from 31 points down.
In the end, Phoenix escaped with its fifth win in 11 games, tying it with its victim, Blackwater and TNT.
Barangay Ginebra, which was playing Rain or Shine as of press time, could wind up with the same record, which is exactly what Phoenix is hoping for.
Should the Kings win, the Fuel Masters would be squaring off with the KaTropa for the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals.
If it is the Elasto Painters who prevail, then Phoenix would be safely in at seventh while Ginebra and Blackwater play off.
Fuel Masters coach Louie Alas was simply thankful his charges managed to live and fight another day.
The loss hardly mattered for Global Port as it wound up safely within the top six and a best-of-three duel in the next round.
The Batang Pier would have dropped to seventh and a win-twice handicap over the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals had they lost by at least 16 points. But they fought on from a 35-66 third quarter deficit and managed to salvage the coveted spot.
Terrence Romeo, making his season debut, played a key role in the comeback along with Stanley Pringle, Nico Elorde, and even Yousef Taha as Global Port came to within 98-102.
But Chan and Jazul came up with a charity split each inside the final 22 seconds, sealing the win for Phoenix.
Chan finished with 18 points, while Gelo Alolino and Jazul chipped in 10 points apiece, the latter highlighting his performance with a near-triple that made it 101-90. Perkins only had seven points but hauled down 10 rebounds.
Willy Wilson saw action despite a sprained thumb and notched nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
Romeo's 20 points in his first 30 minutes of action were enough to pace Global Port, which also drew 17 points and eight rebounds from Sean Anthony and 16 points and 10 assists from Pringle.
The difference would not have reached that high if not for the ejection of Kelly Nabong with still 2:39 left in the second period after he incurred two successive technical fouls. He drew the first after vehemently arguing a non-call and another for flashing the bird on Alas.
Nabong wound up with eight rebounds and an assist but went scoreless after just one try and his exit looked to have sparked Phoenix even more as it went on a 14-0 tear to erect its 31-point bulge.
Global Port coach Pido Jarencio was left looking for somebody who could fill up Nabong's averages of almost 15 points and 11.5 boards per game, but it took a long while before he found it, and not just from one player.
The likes of Joseph Gabayni and Jonathan Grey started chipping in before Global Port's core group, this time with Taha in lieu of Nabong, almost got the Batang Pier completely back from a 67-86 deficit heading to the last 12 minutes of play.*pba.com
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