Young guns fuel Phoenix

Young guns Encho Serrano and Tyler Tio provided the spark, powering Phoenix to an 89-82 victory over Meralco to clinch its third straight victory in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday, 19 October at the Philsports Arena.

Picked up in the second round of the recent Annual Rookie Draft, both Serrano and Tio tallied 14 markers apiece to underscore the Fuel Masters’ balanced offensive attack that led to their third win in six matches.

Import Kaleb Wesson led the way with 23 points and 13 rebounds while RJ Jazul dropped 12 points and Javee Mocon added 10 points for the resurgent Fuel Masters.

But more than stepping up offensively, Wesson also shackled his more illustrious counterpart, National Basketball Association journeyman Johnny O’Bryant, who struggled all game long, producing only seven points on 2-of-17 shooting from the field.

The loss was the fourth in five games for the Bolts, who are now in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.

In five straight conferences, Meralco had made it to the semifinals, playing in the championship round twice.

Bong Quinto paced the Bolts’ production as he came away with a career-high 22 points, six rebounds and three steals, but his solid, all-round game didn’t result to a victory for Meralco.

The Bolts are visibly feeling the absence of ace player Chris Newsome, who is still sidelined by a contusion injury on his calf.

Tio had been playing splendid basketball and for two straight games, he was able to set career-high in points.

Despite the departure of Matthew Wright for Japan, Phoenix coach Topex Robinson still envisioned Tio to stake over and carry the scoring cudgels.

“When we took Tyler, we knew Matt is gonna be gone,” Robinson told Daily Tribune.

“The moment we had a chance with Tyler, we knew at the start of the conference, that’s gonna be the next guy, not really taking over Matthew’s place, but he’s going to be an added motivation to our team.”

True enough, Tio didn’t disappoint.

In six games, he has averaged 16.2 points per game, capped by a career-high performance in the Fuel Masters’ 111-97 dumping of NLEX last week.

Serrano, on the other hand, is taking advantage on every opportunity given to him and like Tio, he had been providing the Fuel Masters a different dimension in their game by slashing his way to the basket and opening things up for spot-up shooters.

“I told them, they don’t have to get things personal with the teams that passed them up in the Draft,” Robinson added.

“It just so happened that you went to a team that needed you. Both of those players are taking advantage of the opportunities and they have the support of the rest of the team.”


The scores:

PHOENIX (89) – Wesson 23, Tio 14, Serrano 14, Jazul 12, Mocon 10, Anthony 6, Adamos 2, Lojera 2, Garcia 2, Lalata 2, Robles 2, Camacho 0, Rios 0, Muyang 0, Pascual 0, Manganti 0.

MERALCO (82) – Quinto 22, Black 14, Maliksi 13, O’Bryant 7, Hodge 7, Almazan 6, Caram 6, Pasaol 5, Jose 2, Hugnatan 0, Pascual 0.

QUARTERS: 24-22; 47-3876-63; 89-82.

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