MANILA, Philippines -- After playing limited minutes in Game 2 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series against TNT Tropang Giga, Phoenix Super LPG star Matthew Wright was determined to step up in the crucial third game of the series.
Wright left the series opener early after sustaining an ankle injury, and played just 15 minutes in Game 2 that saw the Fuel Masters claim a 110-103 win to knot the series at one game apiece.
With a chance to put Phoenix Super LPG on the brink of a first-ever finals appearance, Wright refused to let his still aching ankle slow him down. He played 33 minutes in Game 3, making 10 of 19 shots to finish with 25 points and drilling the dagger jumper with 22 seconds left.
"There's really no secret," said Wright after the Fuel Masters' 92-89 win that gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. "I just really had to man up and play through the pain, play through the limited mobility."
"Thank God that they won Game 2 without me, even though I tried to play as much as I could. But that just shows how much trust that our team has within each other," he added.
Wright admits that he's not at 100%. His right ankle is "still a little painful," even after getting some time to rest between games. But he's also not one to make excuses.
Phoenix Super LPG coach Topex Robinson explained after the game that as a team, the Fuel Masters all acknowledged that they were tired and hurting.
"By saying that, we're eliminating any excuses. So, acknowledge it and let it go," Robinson said. "Because again, you never know when you're gonna get this chance again."
The coach noted that no player embodied that mentality more than Wright, who told him that he doesn't care about the bum right ankle that limited him to two points in Game 2.
"He will not give it as an excuse para hindi siya mag-perform. And he just said, 'Just call my name, I'm ready, coach, I'm just gonna contribute,'" said Robinson. "And that's what Matthew is -- not letting go of this opportunity and this platform to really inspire a lot of people."
"Sabi niya nga, 'If I'm not gonna play now, when will I play?' I mean, sabi niya his ankle could wait after this bubble to hurt," he added.
Fortunately for Wright, he has two days to rest before the Fuel Masters try to close out the Tropang Giga in Game 4, set for Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Another win will send them to a breakthrough finals appearance -- a remarkable achievement for a team that has already "overachieved," according to Robinson himself.
"Just like what we mentioned at the start of the conference, we just wanna be the best versions of ourselves. And no matter what the game is, it's always about again, just trying to enjoy it," the coach said.