Magnolia put an end to the short but nonetheless impressive campaign of Phoenix, escaping with a 102-95 victory in their quarterfinals encounter in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Friday, Dec. 9.
In a contest marred by physicality and a series of stoppages due to technical fouls for flopping, the Hotshots finally decided to play just basketball and flaunted their patented defense in the final frame to frustrate the hard-fighting Fuel Masters and advance to the semifinals.
Calvin Abueva displayed the veteran poise in crunchtime, scoring 10 of his team’s last 12 points to give the much-needed separation in the final five minutes.
He finished with 19 points and five rebounds while import Nick Rakocevic bucked an injury scare early in the second half to still post a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Magnolia now awaits the results of the quarterfinals series between Barangay Ginebra and NorthPort.
The Hotshots looked poised to break the game wide open behind the hot start from Paul Lee who shot a perfect 3-of-3 clip from beyond the arc in the opening period.
Phoenix, despite missing four of its players due to health and safety protocol, showed great resolve and managed to keep themselves within striking distance at the end of the first two quarters, 50-46.
The Fuel Masters, in the good stretch in the second half actually even took the lead behind the efforts of their super rookies in Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano. Rakocevic and Abueva, however, had other plans in mind and didn’t want to play one more game as they engineered the run that ultimately slammed the door on the Fuel Masters.
Import Kaleb Wesson dropped 16 points in an effort to extend his stay while Tio and Serrano added 18 and 16, respectively. Their efforts, however, couldn’t salvage the promising campaign that had them win five straight games in the elimination before falling to the seventh seed due to an inferior quotient.