Jameel McKay was a picture of exhaustion in the fourth quarter for the Phoenix Fuel Masters. Head down and hands to his knees, he did everything possible to keep himself in the action.
But it was all worth it in the end as the energetic forward of the Fuel Masters was able to pick up a monster win again against the Alaska Aces.
Buoyed by the huge game of McKay, Phoenix led virtually the entire way, en route to a 94-86 win over Alaska Friday inside the Smart Arena Coliseum.
McKay led the way with a personal best 42 points and 22 rebounds. He shot 16-of-25 for 64%, while also chipping in two steals and two blocks.
“I came out and had a big first half, and my teammates rolled with me,” McKay said. “And they finished the game off. That was big time, it was good to see that.”
Former Alaska Aces Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul also delivered against their old squad. Baguio contributed 12 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Jazul had 10 points and a game-high eight assists.
The Aces were led by import Corey Jefferson who scored 31 points to go along with 13 rebounds and four blocks. But he didn’t much help aside from Jvee Casio with 14. No other Alaska player scored in double digits.
Alaska struggled with the absence of Calvin Abueva, who missed the game because of an injury sustained early this week. Already without Chris Banchero and Vic Manuel due to an assortment of injuries, the Aces’ depth was tested by the Fuel Masters.
They struggled early on to stop a red hot McKay. The energetic import of the Fuel Masters already had a whopping 24 points and 17 rebounds at the half, holding down the fort for his teammates who had yet to find their offensive groove. Phoenix led 42-36 at the half as Alaska struggled from the field.
However the Aces wouldn’t take a lot of time erasing the Fuel Masters’ lead, as they went on a 6-0 run at the start of the third period to tie the game at 42 apiece.
Phoenix countered with seven unanswered points, led once again by Mckay. Rooie Matthew Wright also found his stroke in the period as he scored five straight on his own to open up the biggest Phoenix lead of the game, 56-47. Alaska would make some headway in the end behind import Corey Jefferson, trimming the deficit to 66-62 at the end of the period.
But Phoenix remained ahead of Alaska in the fourth quarter, behind contributions from Mark Borboran and McKay. Alaska offense floundered in the quarter, and foul trouble compounded matters as they got into the penalty early in the period.
McKay left the game in the final few minutes because of cramps, but Phoenix had enough left in the tank to stay ahead of the Aces.
After his spectacular game, McKay credited the win to a renewed sense of urgency as Phoenix looks to stay in the playoff hunt in the top eight.
“Just the fact that we needed it stay alive in the standings,” McKay shared. “I felt like last game we let one slip, and i didn’t want to give them an opportunity to let this slip tonight.”
Phoenix climbed to eighth place (3-4) in the standings, while Alaska fell to fifth (4-2).
PHOENIX 94 – McKay 42, Baguio 12, Jazul 10, Wright 7, Borboran 7, Kramer 6, Alolino 5, Miranda 5, Torres 0, Dehesa 0.
ALASKA 86 – Jefferson 31, Casio 14, Thoss 8, Exciminiano 6, Racal 6, Mendoza 6, Enciso 5, Cruz 3, Dela Cruz 3, Hontiveros 2, Andrada 2, Pascual 0.
Quarterscores: 25-19, 42-36, 66-62, 94-86.
– Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul were key parts of Alaska’s march to several PBA finals in the last few years. As a result, it’s understandable that moving to a new team would be very jarring. According to Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia, he challenged the two veterans in a meeting last Wednesday to embrace their new situation.
“I felt na ‘yes, that’s your family before,’ but I haven’t felt you’re with us,” Vanguardia told Baguio and Jazul. “They might be your friends, but there will come a time you have to step up and man up and try to beat them.”
“Let’s be physical with them, match their physicality,” Vanguardia said of his challenge to his players. “True enough we were able to fish a couple of fouls against their pressure defense. I think us executing through RJ and Cyrus got Jameel touches, got Matt going in the 3rd quarter. They were instrumental for this victory.”
Perhaps the biggest shot of the game came from Jazul, who fired up a familiar looking floater to extend their six point lead to eight, with 46.9 seconds left in the game. Those shots proved to be enough to get revenge on his former team.
– Calvin Abueva missed the ballgame because of a collision with Almond Vosotros on April 21 at Kerry Sports Manila during the Gilas national pool practice. According to the team, Abueva was supposed to be wearing a mask as a precaution, but it didn’t arrive in time for the game.
Alaska – May 7 vs. Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
Phoenix – May 3 vs. Meralco Bolts at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum