Prior to Friday, the Phoenix Fuel Masters had been on a two-game skid, with their most recent loss coming at the hands of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. And the pain of that defeat made Jameel McKay take it upon himself to stop his team’s bleeding.
“Going into the game, I wanted to impact the game in a way that would make us win,” bared the 6-foot-9 American out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
And McKay indeed backed up his claim and showed everyone he definitely meant what he had said. In the Fuel Masters’ 94-86 skid-ending victory over the Alaska Aces, the Iowa State product turned the game into his own show.
The 24-year-old single-handedly preyed on and tore the Aces apart, finishing with a career-best 42 points on 64 percent shooting along with 22 boards. He also made his presence felt on defense, as he added two steals and two blocks.
“I feel good. It felt good. Most importantly, we got the win, that’s all I really cared about,” declared McKay on the beastly outing he had after averaging 25.6 points and 18.6 rebounds in his previous five games.
McKay stunned not only Alaska but also those in the bleachers, but even Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia, who was left impressed with his reinforcement’s game on Friday night.
“Jameel is getting better every time,” the first-year head coach raved.
“He’s not the typical go-to guy, but he plays defense and does everything.”
It should be remembered that the Fuel Masters had been coming off a stinging 96-94 defeat to the Elasto Painters last Holy Wednesday, a loss that they could have prevented if they had just been able to hold onto the 17-point lead they had erected.
And for McKay, the collapse the Fuel Masters committed that night was enough for him to come out and play with a strong sense of urgency against the now-4-2 Aces.
“Yeah definitely,” he said. “Especially with the way we lost last game, controlling it until the end [before collapse]. I took ownership of that and wanted to come out to make sure that I put us in a situation to win the game again.
“And then we came through.”
Now that their slump has finally come to an end, McKay’s focus is to rake more wins as possible for the Fuel Masters, especially now that the playoff race comes nearer.
“I got a lot more wins to get. That’s the most important thing, regardless of my individual stats. If I come out there and I just have 10 points and 25 rebounds and we win, I’ll still be happy.
“It’s just all about winning right now,” he concluded.