PHOENIX Pulse chose to rise from the grave on an Easter Sunday.
With Matthew Wright providing the poise in the endgame, the Fuel Masters came up with a hard-earned 92-90 win over the San Miguel Beermen to avoid falling into a very deep hole in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Seemingly making up for lost time following an early F1 Wright scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including all six of Phoenix's last points from the free throw line that gave the team a 92-88 lead, still 21 ticks left.
Chris Ross scored on a quick drive to make it a two-point game and the Beermen had the chance to at least tie when JC Intal muffed his own charity tries.
But Ross misfired on a triple try and so did Von Pessumal on his follow-up floater just before time expired, enabling Phoenix to score the breakthrough win after three games in the best-of-seven duel.
The Fuel Masters gun for a reprise while the Beermen aim to get back on track when the series resumes Tuesday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
In the meantime, Phoenix coach Louie Alas was simply glad his charges were able to sustain their drive for 48 minutes, unlike in an 82-92 loss last Monday when they blew an early 12-point lead and got totally outplayed in the fourth period.
"Sabi ko nga, 'Di tayo p'wedeng maglaro ng less than 48 minutes against San Miguel," said Alas. "At least kanina, hanggang sa last seconds nakaka-execute kami. Basically, ganito rin naman iyung second game. Nu'ng second game hindi lang kami naka-close out."
Calvin Abueva also had 18 points to go with 13 rebounds and five assists, Justin Chua chipped in 15 points and seven boards and RJ Jazul 14 points for Phoenix, which bucked the loss of big men Dave Marcelo, for a second quarter F2 on
Christian Standhardinger, and Jason Oerkins, who fouled out with still 3:33 left.
June Mar Fajardo rebounded from a scoreless first quarter to wind up with game-highs of 22 points and 19 caroms, Alex Cabagnot finished with 18 points and Terrence Romeo and Standhardinger 16 markers each.
But the Beermen practically shot themselves on the foot by missing 17 of their 39 free throw tries compared to the Fuel Masters' 24-of-35 clip from the stripes.
As further testament to Phoenix having more desire, it dominated the boards 71-49 with its 28 offensive rebounds leading to a plus-10 advantage in second chance points.
That explains why Alas was pleased despite his team blowing an early 11-point lead and an 80-73 spread, going to the game's last 6:45.
"Iyun 'yung gusto namin, matapos sila ng less than 100 (points)," said Alas. "Kapag lumagpas ng 100 super less na tsansa naming manalo."
Despite missing its first eight shots to fall behind by 0-8, SMB came very near to completing a second straight comeback, finally tying the score at 86, following a split by Fajardo.
It was then that Wright went to work, hitting his six straight charities that kept the Beermen at bay.
"Si Matt grabe. Tatlong araw na me sakit iyan, eh," related Alas. "Kaya nakita n'yo, ginagamit ko sparingly? I would like to commend him, because of his resiliency." (NC)
Phoenix 92 - Abueva 18, Wright 18, Chua 15, Jazul 14, Perkins 8, Intal 8, Kramer 5, Revilla 4, Mallari 2, Napoles 0, Mendoza 0, Dennison 0, Guevarra 0.
San Miguel 90 - Fajardo 22, Cabagnot 18, Romeo 16, Standhardinger 16, Ross 8, Pessumal 3, Santos 3, Rosser 2, Nabong 2, Zamar 0, Tubid 0.
Quarterscores: 21-19, 40-36, 64-66, 92-90.