After suffering back-to-back defeats into the hands of San Miguel Beermen and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, the Phoenix Fuel Masters knew they have to get their act together Friday night as they go up against a tough Alaska Aces.
That is exactly what they did, yielding the upset axe on the Aces by scoring a decisive 94-86 victory — also their first-ever win against them — to barge into the win column once more at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
“Nakakapagod talunin Alaska,” quipped Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia in the win, which improves their record to 3-4.
And they have reinforcement Jameel McKay to thank for in the morale-boosting triumph.
The 6-foot-9 American single-handedly did most of the damage, finishing the game with a rousing statline of 42 points on 16-of-25 shooting along with 22 boards, two steals, and two blocks in 44 minutes of action.
“Jameel is getting better every time,” Vanguardia raved about his import. “He’s not the typical go-to guy, but he plays defense and does everything.”
“He was trying to prove a point when he knew na he wasn’t included in the Top 5 Imports in an article I showed him,” furthered the first-year coach.
Friday night was clearly for McKay, and it was evident right from the get. He already scored 17 markers and grabbed seven rebounds at the end of the first frame, and his output became a double-double already as the first half ended, having 24 and 17 already.
The Iowa State product was also the one who whammed the nail in the coffin of Alaska, scoring off an alley-oop dish from Mark Borboran to erect a 12-point advantage, 88-76, with 2:54 left. The said dunk was also his 42nd point.
It was time to call it a night for McKay, as he left the game with 1:22 to go due to cramps. But as he left, the Aces still never had any serious threat of mounting a comeback, paving the way for the Fuel Masters to post the victory.
Aside from McKay, Vanguardia had Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul — former players and teammates in Alaska — to thank for also.
“I met Cyrus and RJ Wednesday. It was really Cyrus and RJ kasi I felt na yes, that’s your family before, but I haven’t felt that you’ve been with us,” shared Vanguardia.
“Alam naman natin na its all business but there will come a time we have to beat them. Today they stepped up,” added Vanguardia of Baguio and Jazul, who had 12 and 10 points, respectively, with the latter adding eight dimes.
Cory Jefferson served as Alaska’s anchor with 31 points on 22 shots along with 13 rebounds in their second straight defeat, dragging their card to 4-2. JVee Casio proved to be his only support with 14 points, five assists, and five caroms.
Alaska managed to score better off Phoenix’s turnovers though, converting the latter’s 14 miscues to 19 points. Their bench players also played stellar by adding 30 points to their total output. However, Phoenix had more boards, 47-39.
Phoenix will try to spark a streak as they face Meralco on May 3, Wednesday, 7:00 PM, while Alaska will aim to halt their skid against Ginebra on May 7, Sunday, at 6:45 PM. Both games will be played still at the Big Dome.
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.