Encho Serrano’s heroic performance propelled the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters to a thrilling 106-103 victory over the favored Converge FiberXers in the PBA Governors Cup Sunday, February 26, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The rookie showcased his talent by scoring a career-high 28 points in the second half, including the go-ahead basket in the final 18.7 seconds, to keep Phoenix’s playoff hopes alive and secure their first back-to-back wins in the conference.
Serrano’s impressive display started in the third period, where he led Phoenix’s fightback from a 12-point deficit, demonstrating his determination to help the team. His efforts complemented the Fuel Masters’ defensive mindset, resulting in a game with 16 lead changes and 13 deadlocks, with the last being at 103-all.
Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin praised Serrano’s performance, pointing to him as the game’s key player. “Good thing we were able to recover because of this young kid over here,” said Jarin, highlighting Serrano’s crucial role in the team’s success.
Jarin, who replaced Topex Robinson, also singled out the eight-day rest his team had following their 125-100 victory over Terrafirma as a plus factor.
“We were ready to go up and down for 48 minutes,” said Jarin, reflecting on how his team’s preparation contributed to the win.
He also said, “They (FiberXers) really have a good defensive set. They’re very good screeners, so we really wanted to disrupt their flow in offense. We did a great job in the first quarter but eventually in the latter part of the first quarter and early part of the second we struggled a bit.”
Serrano, selected 19th overall in the Season 47 draft last May, said, “Gustong-gusto ko talagang tumulong sa team kaya ginawa ko ‘yung best ko (I really wanted to help the team that’s why I did my best).”
Converge FiberXers’ Jamaal Franklin led all scorers with 30 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. However, his seven turnovers and missed three-point shots in the dying seconds proved costly for his team.
In addition to Serrano’s heroics, Du’vaughn Maxwell provided valuable support with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocked shots.
Jason Perkins and Tyler Tio also contributed 16 points apiece, with Tio’s free throw securing the final score in the last 3.5 seconds of the game.
Converge FiberXers’ loss, their third in nine games, put a damper on their hopes of landing a spot among the top four, which would have given them a twice-to-beat advantage in the eight-team quarterfinals.
They now need to win at least one of their two remaining elimination round matches against Meralco and Barangay Ginebra to have a chance at securing a coveted slot.
Overall, Serrano’s standout performance and the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters’ impressive defensive play secured a crucial win and kept their playoff hopes alive in the PBA Governors Cup.
PHOENIX 106 – Serrano 28, Maxwell 19, Perkins 16, Tio 16, Muyang 8, Mocon 7, Camacho 4, Jazul 3, Manganti 3, Garcia 2, Alejandro 0.
CONVERGE 103 – Franklin 30, Stockton 11, Balanza 11, Racal 11, Teng 11, Ahanmisi 10, Arana 8, Ebona 4, Tratter 4, Browne 0.