Encho Serrano clutch as Phoenix stays hot with fourth straight win

Encho Serrano showed nerves of steel as Phoenix repelled Rain or Shine, 92-83, to soar to its fourth straight win in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Encho Serrano (PBA Images)

The Fuel Masters continued to blaze as they rode a scintillating third quarter run to create a sizeable margin before Serrano delivered the telling blow in the waning minutes to slam the door on the Elasto Painters' comeback and climb up to the third spot of the standings with a 4-3 win-loss record.

Serrano unloaded 18 points – six of which came in the final two and a half minutes of the contest to keep Phoenix afloat after it played without import Kaleb Wesson for the most part of the final frame due to foul trouble.

The high-flying rookie out of La Salle who also finished with five rebounds and five assists nailed a booming triple off a kick out pass from Sean Anthony to rebuild an eight-point lead, 86-78, when a Rey Nambatac and-1 play cut the lead down to just five after trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half.

Serrano, however, was called for a deliberate foul that led to two free-throws for Steve Taylor Jr. and a huge trey from Gian Mamuyac to cut the lead down to just three.

Making up for the blunder, Serrano soared for a layup before splitting his charities in the next play to give Phoenix some breathing room, 89-83, with 56 seconds left.

Head coach Topex Robinson lauded the mental toughness displayed by his young charges especially against a very physical team like Rain or Shine.

“We just try to tell everybody that it's always gonna be on us. Ang kalaban namin always ang sarili namin, how are we gonna play. We know that it's gonna be a physical game. I've always been with coach Yeng and he always puts so much emphasis on being a mentally tough,” said Robinson.

“I'm just passing on what I've learned from coach Yeng to handle the situation and be mentally tough and try to hold on to the opportunity kasi yun naman talaga ang important against any Coach Yeng guiao team, you have to be mentally tough,” he added.

Wesson finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks and four assists as he led a surging third quarter where the Fuel Masters tightened up their defensive screws keeping Rain or Shine scoreless for a good seven minute stretch to establish an 18-point advantage, 68-50, halfway through the quarter.

Rain or Shine, though, behind Taylor Jr. who finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds, and Mamuyac who added 14 points, came back roaring in the final frame – all of which went down the drain after Serrano’s heroics.