After dropping their first three games in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters have bounced back with two consecutive wins over a pair of quality opponents.
Rookie point guard Tyler Tio and 27-year-old forward Javee Mocon have led the way for this young group that has turned heads with their gutsy play over the past week.
In their 111-97 win over the NLEX Road Warriors last October 8, Tio put up a career-high 26 points on nine-of-17 field goal shooting, five three-pointers, seven assists, and only one turnover. He has exceeded expectations in his starting role for Phoenix following a collegiate career with the ADMU Blue Eagles where he primarily came off the bench.
On the heels of Tio’s explosive performance against NLEX, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel came into their match-up with the Super LPG Fuel Masters focused on slowing the 14th overall pick of this year’s PBA Draft.
Ginebra put their 6’7 swingman Jamie Malonzo on Tio from the opening tip as they banked on the former’s length and athleticism to limit the latter’s effectiveness. The 5’11 guard was visibly bothered by Malonzo in the early goings of the match, but eventually found his rhythm.
Tio showed his poise as he guided Phoenix’s fourth quarter rally that saw them turn the three-point deficit that they faced before the fourth quarter into an impressive 101-93 victory versus the crowd favorite Ginebra. He wound up hitting eight of the 11 shots that he attempted from the field to finish with 17 points along with seven assists.
The 24-year-old guard has combined his youthful vigor with veteran poise and court smarts that have quickly turned him into one of the best young prospects in the PBA today. His teammate Mocon has fed off his playmaking as the duo has caught the eye of the rest of the league with their recent play.
Mocon, who was acquired by the Super LPG Fuel Masters last June from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, has developed into the primary scoring option among locals for this team. He opened their Commissioner’s Cup with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists in their loss to the NorthPort Batang Pier and has not looked back since.
The 6’3 forward tallied 23 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in their win over the Road Warriors and followed it up with 20 points, five rebounds, and two assists to help beat Ginebra. He is now averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in what has been his best conference so far in his four-year PBA career.
While it is difficult to imagine Phoenix making it past the quarterfinals in this conference, their performance in their past two outings has been an encouraging step in the right direction. Tio and Mocon are developing into long-term building blocks for this franchise and their injured star Jason Perkins should have no trouble fitting in with them when he eventually returns from knee surgery.
The Super LPG Fuel Masters were dealt a serious blow when Matthew Wright departed for Japan’s B.League two months ago, yet they have picked up the pieces and, at the very least, have a few promising young players whom they can build around. There is still a long way to go before they can replicate their semifinal appearances in 2019 and 2020, though they are slowly rising from the ashes and are building from the ground up.