(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. -- Mahindra vs. Globalport
7 p.m. -- NLEX vs. Alaska
AFTER two seasons of trying, Blackwater finally pulled one over Phoenix.
The Elite relied on their beefed-up roster to repulse the Fuel Masters, 94-87 and notched their first win in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Phoenix is one of four teams that Blackwater was not able to beat since joining the pro-league two seasons ago. The other three are NLEX, Talk N Text and Rain or Shine.
Rookie Mac Belo made his presence felt in his new home, capping the night with 17 points and nine rebounds, enough to earn the best player of the game honor.
Belo is also the first rookie to win the best player award in a debut game since Talk N Text’s Eloy Poligrates in 2013.
Not to be outdone, veterans Art Dela Cruz and Denok Miranda also showed the way for the Elite, finishing with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Of course, nobody is happier than Blackwater coach Leo Isaac.
“Best start for Blackwater, our best start in any conference,” said Isaac after the game. “It’s a new season for us, we have new players, players we really wanted. We have new hope.”
Isaac added that he sees the win as a big morale boost for the squad, but he added that they need to make sure they can channel their excitement to good games.
“All the excitement must be converted to Ws on actual games,” said Isaac. “Mahirap yung excited ka lang, it has to be translated to Ws.”
He added that they want to instill to the rookies the sense of urgency and playing basic basketball.
“We would want them to learn basic basketball and from then on they can show their skills,” said Isaac.
And true enough, it was the rookies that made things happen for Blackwater.
Belo, who is also a member of the Gilas Pilipinas, promptly displayed his wares from start to finish, and even made the pivotal basket which eventually gave the Elite their first win in the season-opening conference.
The former FEU standout hit seven out of his nine attempts from the field for an impressive 87 percent clip. He also dished two assists.
Actually, Blackwater started off strong, erecting a 16-3 advantage courtesy of Belo, Dela Cruz and Miranda.
But Phoenix got its wind in the second period, as Simon Enciso sparked an 11-2 run that got the Fuel Masters back into the fray.
Enciso continued his hot shooting streak and scored back-to-back triples to give Phoenix a 38-34 lead, but was quickly erased by Blackwater as the Elite closed the first half leading by two, 45-43.
A different story unfolded in the second half, as both teams never let up on defense and offense up until the Elite managed to pull away in the payoff period.
With the game tied at 73-all, Blackwater launched its own 11-2 run to grab an 84-75 lead with 6:41 remaining.
Enciso and JC Intal kept Phoenix afloat by scoring a combined five points, but Belo drained a crucial jumper to stop the Fuel Masters’ uprising. His basket gave Blackwater an 87-80 lead with 1:50 remaining.
Phoenix was then forced to commit fouls on Blackwater which sank five of its next six free throws.
Intal scored 12 points, while rookie Gelo Alolino had a solid debut of 11 points. Willy Wilson had a double-double outing of 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Phoenix didn’t field in top rookie Matthew Wright who was suffering from stomach flu.
Blackwater (94) -- Belo 17, Dela Cruz 12, Miranda 11, Ababou 9, Buenafe 8, Pinto 8, Forrester 7, Pascual 7, Sena 6, Aguilar 4, Banal 3, Cervantes 2.
Phoenix (87) -- Enciso 25, Intal 12, Alolino 11, Wilson W. 10, Borboran 6, Caperal 6, Wilson J. 5, Baguio 4, Lanete 4, Torres 4, Hayes 0, Miranda 0, Javillonar 0.
Quarterscores: 27-23, 45-43, 71-69, 94-87.