By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters are for real.
Entering the season full of doubts with the departure of franchise player Matthew Wright for the Japan B. League and Jason Perkins out for the rest of the conference due to surgery, the young roster led by head coach Topex Robinson made a promising start this 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
After kicking off its first three games with a 0-3 record, the Fuel Masters rose to a four-game winning streak with the Rain or Shine Elastopainters serving as their latest casualty, 92-83, to enter the top five in the league standings.
The Fuel Masters brought their momentum in their game against Rain or Shine and were the same crisp well-oiled squad that took down NLEX, Ginebra, and Meralco.
However, Phoenix failed to replicate their usual strong start and allowed the Elastopainters to crash the boards that rewarded them with early multiple possessions.
Rain or Shine’s aggressiveness and gang rebounding helped them establish an early 9-2 lead in the first four minutes and were picking pockets with their tight man-to-man defense.
Gian Mamuyac was a pest in the first quarter after recording early steals which resulted in uncontested breakaway layups.
However, Rain or Shine would only enjoy the first 12 minutes of action as Phoenix came storming back with a 29-20 second-quarter rally behind their efficient three-point shooting.
Hardworking import Kaleb Wesson asserted himself in the offensive boards and outdueled Rain or Shine’s front court. After Wesson’s offensive board, Phoenix connected on kick-out treys that helped them retake the lead heading into halftime.
It was the same story in the third canto as the Fuel Masters remained consistent with their offensive executions and got a huge lift from Encho Serrano.
Serrano answered every Rain or Shine basket and was an unstoppable force once he attacks the basket to fish for fouls.
With Phoenix leading by double-digits midway in the last quarter, the Elastopainters mounted a rally courtesy of Beau Belga and Mamuyac’s three-pointers that trimmed the lead to just five points.
Phoenix came right back with the much-needed response and got a huge lift from Serrano who scored a crucial three-pointer from the left corner and a double clutch layup to put the Elastopainters away.
Serrano led all locals in scoring and notched a new career-high 18 points built from 7/10 shooting from the field while Wesson chipped in 21 points and 17 rebounds.
On the other hand, Rain or Shine had 16 points from bruising import Steve Taylor Jr. but only had 12 total shot attempts. Mamuyac and Rey Nambatac were the only locals who scored in double digits, 16 and 14 points, respectively.