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Phoenix debuts with statement, snaps Blackwater's hot run

Matt Wright put up an impressive all-around game for the Fuel Masters. PBA Media Group

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—In its return to play, Phoenix showed why it remains a threat for the title.

The Fuel Masters began their campaign in the PBA Commissioner's Cup by downing Blackwater, 103-98, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on Friday night.

Phoenix made a statement in the second half, dropping 39 points in the third quarter and opening a 93-74 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Blackwater, however, rallied and came to within two, 98-100, with 6.9 seconds remaining.

The team even had a chance to force overtime as RJ Jazul, a steady free throw shooter, could only go 1-for-2 from the line with three seconds left.

However, Matt Salem threw an errant pass at the other end, and Matt Wright sank two free throws for the final count.

Wright finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and one steal for the Fuel Masters, who were fresh from a breakthrough semifinals appearance in the Philippine Cup.

Rob Dozier scored 18 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and also had three assists, four blocks, and one steal in his first game as a Fuel Master.

Ray-Ray Parks fired 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals for the Elite, who lost for the first time in the conference after a 3-0 start.

Alex Stepheson added 24 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.

The scores:

Phoenix 103 - Wright 22, Dozier 18, Jazul 17, Perkins 16, Abueva 13, Mallari 8, Chua 7, Kramer 2, Revilla 0, Intal 0, Marcelo 0, Wilson 0.

Blackwater 98 - Parks 25, Stepheson 24, Belo 12, Sumang 10, Tratter 7, Maliksi 6, Al-Hussaini 6, Digregorio 4, Cortez 2, Alolino 2, Salem 0.

Quarterscores: 15-17, 41-41, 80-71, 103-98.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno