MANILA, Philippines -- With a chance to formalize their entry into the quarterfinals, Calvin Abueva made sure that Phoenix Super LPG won't suffer an upset at the hands of the Blackwater Elite.
The Fuel Masters trailed most of the way, but dominated the fourth quarter. Abueva had nine points, four rebounds, and three assists in that frame alone to help Phoenix Super LPG overhaul the lead and eventually take a 100-95 victory.
"The Beast" finished with a near triple-double of 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, again earning Player of the Game honors.
"Actually, 'yung first half namin, talagang struggle kami, wala kaming ginawa," admitted Abueva, as the Fuel Masters trailed 45-34 at the half and fell behind by as much as 16 points in the third quarter. "More on ano kami, more on pakiramdaman, walang talk, walang communication."
"Kaya nung second half, talagang different na, kung sino-sino na nagsasalita na kailangan natin ng communication. Kailangan natin mag-hustle, kailangan natin mag-doble effort," he added.
The win assured Phoenix Super LPG of a quarterfinals spot, and put them in a three-way tie with Barangay Ginebra and TNT Tropang Giga at the top spot. All three teams have identical 7-3 win-loss slates.
Moreover, it kept Phoenix Super LPG in the hunt for a Top 4 finish, which will give them a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
That, more than anything else, was on Abueva's mind.
"Actually, kami nagdi-dictate kung saan kami pupunta. Ayaw namin sayangin 'yung pagkakataon na 'to na mapunta kami sa Top 4," said Abueva, who is averaging 15.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game for Phoenix Super LPG since his return.
"Talagang ito, binuhos namin. At hindi lang buhos dito sa second to the last game, 'yung last game pa namin against Rain or Shine, kailangan pa namin ibuhos lahat," he stressed.
For Phoenix Super LPG head coach Topex Robinson, what's crucial is for the Fuel Masters to take care of their own business. With two game days left in the elimination round, there is no clarity as to which teams will secure the playoff bonuses.
At the moment, only TNT, Barangay Ginebra, and Phoenix Super LPG are sure of places in the Top 8.
"Wala kaming control sa ibang teams eh, what teams will do, what teams will prepare for. But we have 100% control of how we will play," Robinson said. "So we always make sure we're gonna talk about the details. We're always gonna take it game by game, practice to practice."
"We don't wanna get caught in that win-loss or one to four problema. So keep it simple, try to learn. I'm sure we're gonna have a lot of learning opportunities sa game na 'to that will make us grow," he added.
Phoenix Super LPG wraps up its elimination round campaign on Wednesday against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.