PHO 118 – BW 116 (2OT)
The Phoenix Fuel Masters were looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to their Philippine Cup. Sure, they exceeded most expectations by finishing with a 6-5 record, and being the only team to beat the San Miguel Beermen during the elimination round, but getting blown out by the Star Hotshots by an average of 25.5 points during the quarterfinals wasn’t the best finish.
For the Commissioner’s Cup, the Fuel Masters opted to bring back 6’7” Eugene Phelps, rather than make the most of the conference’s 6’10” height limit. Their former Governors’ Cup reinforcement was a known quantity, capable of super-charging the squad’s fast-paced attack, after putting up 36.1 points, 19.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists last year.
However, the big question was would he be able to match up against taller, stronger imports? Could he have the same impact as in the Governors’ Cup?
Well, based on Phoenix’s opening assignment, he could have the same impact, and then some.
Phelps produced a whopping 53 points and 21 rebounds to lead Phoenix past the Blackwater Elite, 118-116 in double-overtime.
It was a back-and-forth affair all throughout, and Cyrus Baguio was the top Phoenix local with 10 points, five boards, and four dimes. But it was really Phelps who was able to showcase his talents.
He was a monster in the paint, making 59 percent of his baskets, and at the same time, he was able to draw a whopping 18 fouls. It’s that kind of production which Phoenix expected from him in the first place. Considering that Gilas draft pick Matthew Wright was out against Blackwater, the Fuel Masters can only go up from here.
Except, that isn’t entirely the case.
Instead of feeling secure because of what their import put up, the Fuel Masters are left having to answer even more questions rather than having answers for their concerns entering the conference. See, Phelps’ first game with the Fuel Masters for this conference may also serve as his last, as he still has commitments to attend to in Puerto Rico.
This game of the Fuel Masters felt like a sudden date with an ex-girlfriend. It was happy, looking back at your past and the possibility of having a future with one another once again. But in reality, it was a painful reminder that what you have is only temporary, with huge question marks looming.
Phelps was a proven prospect who showed that he has what it takes to contribute against bigger competition. While for this new import on the way? That’s what we’ll have to find out, once he finally suits up.