ANTIPOLO – JC Intal, a regular starter from their Barako Bull days, was surprised when told he’s playing off the bench.
He took that as a challenge, responding big time to lead Phoenix Petroleum to a first-ever win over San Miguel Beer.
The 2015 FIBA Asia veteran churned out a big game in a relief job, firing away 22 points including a crucial five-point binge at the finish as Fuel Masters pulled the rug from under the reigning champs San Miguel Beermen, 92-85, in the PBA Philippine Cup at Ynares Sports Center here.
Intal scored on a short bank shot off Alex Cabagnot then knocked in a trey off a steal by Prince Caperal, preserving their tough effort in the game against the late-charging Beermen.
“The day before the game alam na ng mga players namin who are the starters. Nagtanong si JC sa isang assistant coach namin bakit hindi siya mag-i-start. Nagtanong lang naman at hindi nagreklamo,” said Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia.
“In-off the bench namin siya para maiba lang. He was up to it, he responded and had his breakout game since his (recovery from) his injury,” Vanguardia added.
With the Beermen threatening to steal the game at the finish, Intal took over the game, banging away two clutch shots that saved the Fuel Masters from imminent danger.
Simon Enciso, Gelo Alolino, Matthew Wright and Caperal had their huge exploits early on, helping the Fuel Masters bounce back from a losing season debut against the Blackwater Elite.
Enciso put in 15 points on a key 5-of-7 three-point shooting in the third quarter, with Alolino, Wright and Caperal having their own double-digit outputs as Phoenix foiled SMB’s attempt to make it a three-way tie in the lead with Blackwater and Rain or Shine.
“Honestly, I was not expecting to beat San Miguel. They’re the defending champions and I told the guys, you just play better than you did against Blackwater, happy na ako,” said Vanguardia.
“Sumunod sila sa gameplan, nag-double-team kami at napatunayan namin sa isa’t isa na kaya pala namin mag-compete (against established PBA teams),” Vanguardia added.
With a good ploy, the Fuel Masters seized control right in the opening quarter, 26-15, and went on to win the game as they survived gnawing pressures at the finish.
They took the half at 49-35 and maintained a commanding lead at the end of the third, 77-63, largely behind Enciso’s 15-point splurge.
The Fuel Masters led by 17 twice, with the second and last at 75-58 before the Beermen started a rally that had them creeping to within one, 84-85, in the homestretch.
Then Intal came out to fend off the Beermen.