Eugene Phelps exploded for a PBA career-high 53 points and the Phoenix Fuel Masters beat the Blackwater Elite in double overtime, 118-116, in the 2017 Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The returning Phoenix import made 19-of-32 field goals and also grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked five shots. JC Intal added 11, while Cyrus Baguio and Willie Wilson each had 10.
“We know what Eugene can give us and (Blackwater) got a very good import in Greg Smith. He’s going to be a problem for all the PBA teams,” Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia said after the game. “We played two tuneup games, both were tied against Rain or Shine and Meralco. Today we played in double overtime, so at least we found a way to win.”
RJ Jazul, who played in his first game in a Fuel Masters uniform, shot poorly from the field. He only finished with eight points on 3-of-16 shooting.
“RJ is still struggling. He’s not used to playing 30-plus minutes. But he’s our leader and we will go to him to decide what play we will run in crunch time,” said Vanguardia.
Phoenix was holding on to just a one-point lead after three quarters, but scored the first seven points in the final period to extend its lead to eight, 83-75, prompting Blackwater to sue for time. The Elite finally got their offense going and cut into the deficit on a three-point play from James Sena, 85-82. Phelps pushed Phoenix ahead by five with a pair from the stripe, but Blackwater scored six straight points to reclaim the lead, 88-87, under six minutes remaining in the game.
The two squads came up empty-handed on their next few possessions before new recruit Michael DiGregorio knocked down a three to put Blackwater up by three, 92-89, 3:10 left on the clock. But a five-point swing from the Fuel Masters — two free throws from Phelps and a Willie Wilson trey — pushed them in front, 94-92. The Elite missed on their next trip as Phelps made two more from the stripe to make it a four-point lead for Phoenix.
A three-point play from Smith at the 1:41 mark inched Blackwater closer. Then the Fuel Masters committed a turnover which led to a fastbreak layup for Digregorio to hand the lead back to the Elite, 97-96. Phelps spun in the lane for a lay-in to put Phoenix back on top, but DiGregorio hit another three to give Blackwater a 100-98 edge, 1:04 left in the game.
Phelps, however, tied ithe score again with a power play inside. Both teams missed on their next attempts as Blackwater gained possession with 17.1 seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, the Elite called a play for Smith but his shot with was blocked by Phelps. Phoenix grabbed the rebound with 0.1 seconds left, forcing the game into overtime.
Three points from JC Intal and a layup from Cyrus Baguio put the Fuel Masters up by three, 105-102, 3:27 in the extra session. Belo made two from the stripe to bring Blackwater within one, but Phelps’ three-point play gave Phoenix some breathing room, 108-104, 1:57 left. The Elite were able to tie the game again at 108-all with a minute remaining, but Baguio made a floater off the glass to put his team up by two. A Smith turnaround led to another deadlock, 110-all, as both Phoenix and Blackwater couldn’t score in the next plays to push the game into another overtime period.
Denok Miranda opened the scoring in the second overtime, but Phoenix tied the game 112-all on a layup from Phelps. Showing fatigue, both Blackwater and Phoenix missed their attempts on the next plays down. But Phelps and Mark Borboran handed the Fuel Masters a four-point lead, 116-112, two minutes left.
DiGregorio made one free throw but a floater from Phelps pushed Phoenix ahead, 118-113, 40 seconds remaining. Sumang made a three to bring Blackwater within two. Phelps missed a pair of freethrows with 13 ticks left, but Sumang missed on a three-point attempt from far out as the Fuel Masters notched the win.
Smith also had a monster game in his first PBA game with 37 points and 30 rebounds. Belo, meanwhile, had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the loss.
PHOENIX 118 – Phelps 53, Intal 11, Baguio 10, W. Wilson 10, Alolino 9, Jazul 8, Borboran 8, J. Wilson 3, Lanete 2, Miranda 2, Kramer 2, Dehesa 0, Eriobu 0.
BLACKWATER 116 – Smith 37, Belo 21, DiGregorio 13, Sumang 11, Pascual 8, Sena 7, Gamalinda 7, Miranda 6, Ababou 3, Forrester 0, Pinto 0, Cervantes 0, Aguilar 0.
Quarterscores: 18-18, 38-45, 76-75, 100-100, 118-116
– Eugene Phelps was also Phoenix’s import last year. He averaged 36.4 points, 19.5 rebounds and 3.8 steals in 10 games in the 2016 Governors’ Cup.
– Greg Smith is a first-time PBA import. He played for three teams in the NBA – Houston, Dallas and Minnesota – and recently came off a stint in the Turkish league.
– It was the first multple overtime game this season.