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Jun 25, 2019

Souped-up Batang Pier gun for solo leadership

THE breaks just won't come Phoenix Pulse's way.

On top of the recent indefinite suspension slapped on Calvin Abueva, the Fuel Masters now have four players nursing an assortment of injuries.

That doesn't mean Phoenix is ready to give up the ghost, no matter the odds.

"It will be tough, but we will be ready," said coach Fuel Masters coach Louie Alas Tuesday on the eve of his Fuel Masters' collision with streaking NorthPort in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Batang Pier are gunning for a fifth straight win and eighth in nine games overall that would give them uncontested hold of solo leadership and further boost their bid of finishing among the top two at the end of the 11-game eliminations.

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Phoenix is simply hoping to notch a third win in seven games and gain the much-needed momentum for its stretch run in the elims.

First, Alas and his remaining charges must overcome the absence of the injured LA Revilla, Jaypee Mendoza, Michael Gamboa and Rey Guevarra, as well as Jason Perkins not at 100 percent due to a hurting shoulder.

All those spell a big blow to Phoenix playing its usual pressure game anchored on fresh legs.

"We've got only 12 healthy guys," related Alas. "I just hope that we can sustain our energy."

NorthPort also has its own manpower problems following injuries to Nico Elorde, Jonathan Grey, Lervin Flores and Bradwyn Guinto.

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That forced Batang Pier management to trade last season's scoring champion Stanley Pringle to Barangay Ginebra for Sol Mercado, Kevin Ferrer and Jervy Cruz.

Such a move proved to be initially sound when the three former Gin Kings combined for 53 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists in a 127-99 demolition of import-less Blackwater last Saturday.

"Sinabi ko naman sa inyo, makakatulong 'yung tatlo," said NorthPort Pido Jarencio after that game. "Nakita natin tumulong. Kahit papaano gumanda rotation natin."

The fact the Batang Pier's new acquisitions were able to help sustain the team's streak and give it a additional dimension is not lost on Alas.

"NorthPort is in tip-top shape," said Alas. "They're deeper with the addition of Ferrer, Mercado and Cruz." (NC)