Jericho Cruz delivered the goods down the stretch to power NLEX to a 94-76 victory over Phoenix in the PBA Philippine Cup at the DVHSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, on Saturday, September 4.
Filling the void left by Kiefer Ravena, Cruz hit crucial buckets down the stretch and dished out key dimes to finish with 19 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals as the Road Warriors earned their third straight win.
Raul Soyud backstopped Cruz with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while JR Quinahan fired 14 points on top of 7 rebounds and 2 blocks to help NLEX improve to 4-2 for solo 4th place.
The Road Warriors also sapped strength from Kevin Alas, who churned out 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Buried by double figures, the Fuel Masters shaved their deficit to 6 points with 6 minutes left, 72-78, off a couple of Jason Perkins free throws and a Chris Banchero triple.
However, NLEX extended its lead back to twin digits behind back-to-back Alas and Soyud layups.
Cruz then drilled in two straight buckets with 1:30 minutes left for a 90-76 cushion before he assisted on two Soyud baskets for good measure.
Phoenix rode on the hot hand of Matthew Wright, who sank his first four shots, to seize a 25-22 lead after the opening quarter.
But Wright went 0-of-14 afterwards and got limited to just 10 points as the Fuel Masters struggled to get their offense going, particularly in the third quarter where they got outscored 17-27.
Vic Manuel led Phoenix, which dropped to 2-5, with 13 points off the bench. Perkins had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Banchero put up 12 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds.
NLEX 94 – Cruz 19, Soyud 17, Quinahan 14, Alas 11, Trollano 9, Oftana 8, Miranda 5, Paniamogan 5, Porter 4, Ighalo 2, McAloney 0.
Phoenix 76 – Manuel 13, Perkins 12, Banchero 12, Wright 10, Jazul 8, Demusis 5, Melecio 5, Chua 4, Garcia 3, Pascual 2, Calisaan 2, Muyang 0, Rios 0.
Quarters: 22-25, 45-45, 72-62, 94-76.