Looking to avoid going down an 0-3 series hole, the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters came out with an undeniable sense of urgency to take Game 3 of its best-of-seven semifinals series against the San Miguel Beermen, 92-90, inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
Matthew Wright, who finished with 18 markers, showed poise in the dying seconds of regulation by draining six-straight clutch free throws to ice the game.
Chris Ross’ strong drive to the cup cut the deficit to two for the Beermen with 17 seconds in the left. But Phoenix left the door wide open in the ensuing possession, after JC Intal muffled both foul shots.
San Miguel had a chance to steal the game in the final possession, but Ross was unable to connect on a potential game-winning three-pointer despite getting a good look.
The Fuel Masters clung to a slim 40-36 lead at the half behind Calvin Abueva, who nearly had a double-double with 12 points and nine boards at the half. ‘The Beast’ won Player of the Game honors, notching another complete performance of 18 markers, 13 boards, five dimes, and two steals.
Both teams dd not give an inch and traded baskets in the penultimate quarter, with SMB holding a slim 66-64 advantage entering the final canto. After a pedestrian showing in the first half, June Mar Fajardo came alive in the final 24 minutes, finishing with a game-high 22 points and 16 boards.
But Phoenix’s reserve big Justin Chua remained unfazed and held his own against the five-time MVP, notching 15 points of his own.
SMB also received strong contributions from Terrence Romeo and Christian Standhardinger, who had 16 points apiece, while Alex Cabagnot scattered 18 markers.
San Miguel’s best shooter Marcio Lassiter did not leave the bench due to a back issue, while Phoenix’s Dave Marcelo was thrown out of the ballgame at the 10:22 mark of the second period for a Flagrant Foul 2 on Christian Standhardinger.
Jason Perkins fouled out at the 3:32 mark of the fourth quarter after being called for a moving screen. He finished with eight markers.
Game 4 is scheduled on Tuesday, April 23 at the Cuneta Astrodome.
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.
(Image from PBA Media Group)