By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE TOP-FOUR push in the PBA Philippine Cup of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters got a boost on Monday after they dug deep and defeated the upset-minded Blackwater Elite, 100-95, at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.
Led by the double-double efforts of Jason Perkins and Calvin Abueva, Phoenix bucked a slow start to surge past Blackwater to improve to 7-3 in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament, in prime position for one of the top four spots that carry a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
The victory thrusts the Fuel Masters to joint first place, as of this writing, with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and TNT Tropang Giga.
The Elite got early traction in the game, led by veteran Nino Canaleta.
They would claim the opening quarter, 21-15, before creating further distance by the halftime break, 45-34.
In the third quarter, Phoenix came out with more bounce in its fight.
Mr. Perkins unleashed 10 points in the opening minutes of the frame to tow his team to a 21-9 run that had them seizing the lead, 55-54, at the 5:27 mark.
The two teams slugged it out thereafter before a late spurt gave the Elite a three-point cushion, 70-67, heading into the payoff quarter.
But the Fuel Masters took cue from their spirited run in the third to begin the fourth canto.
The count stood at 81-all with 7:34 left in the contest and thereafter Phoenix sped to an 8-1 run in the next four minutes to go up, 89-82.
Blackwater made a last-ditch effort to come back, inching to within three, 96-93, with 17 seconds remaining.
It would not come any closer than that though as the Fuel Masters moved to shut the door on their opponents from there.
Mr. Perkins finished with 18 points, 3-of-5 from three-point country, and 12 rebounds for Phoenix, with Mr. Abueva tallying all-around numbers of 17 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Matthew Wright also had 17 points while Brian Heruela had 15 for the Fuel Masters, who won their third straight game with the victory.
For Blackwater (2-8), it was Mr. Canaleta who top-scored with 21, followed by Mac Belo with 17.
Phoenix and Blackwater finish their elimination round assignments on Nov. 11 with the Fuel Masters taking on the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the Elite battling the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok.
Meanwhile, games on Tuesday will see TNT against Rain or Shine at 4 p.m., followed by the San Miguel Beermen versus the Northport Batang Pier.