MANILA–Phoenix’s victory over Ginebra at the USEP Gym in Davao was not an April Fools’ Day joke.
Jameel McKay hit the go-ahead basket as the Fuel Masters stunned the Barangay, the runners-up in the PBA Philippine Cup, 94-91, in their Commissioner’s Cup showdown on Saturday night.
With Phoenix struggling to connive with McKay as evinced by back-to-back losses, the import made the biggest play of his young PBA career by converting a putback with 18.6 seconds that eventually silenced the Ginebra fans at the soldout arena.
The Fuel Masters actually saw an 11-point lead getting blown as the Barangay rallied back and took the lead in the third quarter.
The game became tight from there on, and defense toughened up in the final 1:24 as highlighted by crucial gems.
Japeth Aguilar got a piece of Norbert Torres’ inside shot only for the latter to get back by blocking the former’s dunk attempt.
RJ Jazul then picked an LA Tenorio’s pass and preserved Phoenix’s possession by calling a timeout with 30.5 seconds left.
Torres was wide open from the left corner for a triple, but he muffed the shot. Luckily for the team, McKay got the loose ball and put it back in with 18.6 seconds remaining for a 92-91 lead.
Ginebra had a great chance of stealing the win, but Joe Devance threw a bad pass to Tenorio that the latter failed to control, giving Phoenix the ball back with 9.4 seconds remaining.
Matt Wright put pressure on the Barangay as he made two free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining to up the lead to four, and they eventually gave in to the pressure as they failed to set up a three-point attempt in time as time expired.
Wright’s insurance charities capped a 27-point night for him with six rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
McKay somehow struggled as he only made 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting, but his follow-up was what mattered the most as Phoenix moved up to 2-2. He also had 28 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and three steals.
Aguilar and Devance each chipped in 15 markers for Ginebra with the former tallying five blocks as well.
Apparently a far cry from his explosion in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament earlier in the year, Justin Brownlee only made 12 points in nearly 30 minutes of action in his Commissioner’s Cup debut.
The other Philippine Cup finalist, eventual champion San Miguel, will have its own Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday night as action swings back to the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Beermen will take on the still unbeaten Meralco Bolts at 6:45 p.m. following an early finals rematch at 4:30 p.m. between Alaska, another team with a perfect record, and Rain or Shine.
Phoenix 94-Wright 27, McKay 15, Baguio 13, Jazul 9, Torres 7, Kramer 6, Borboran 5, Alolino 4, Intal 4, Eriobu 2, Miranda 0, J. Wilson 0, Viernes 0
Ginebra 91-Aguilar 15, Devance 15, Tenorio 13, Brownlee 12, Cruz 10, Ellis 9, Caguioa 8, Thompson 5, Marcelo 2, Taha 1, Ferrer 1, Mariano 0
Quarterscores: 26-24, 49-46, 70-71, 94-91