Phoenix interim coach Jamike Jarin considered it a blessing for his team to make the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup playoffs considering the team's bad start under his watch.
The Fuel Masters opened the tournament with a loss to the Blackwater Bossing, en route to a 1-4 start under Jarin.
But Phoenix persevered, and with a stroke of luck when NorthPort bowed to powerhouse squad TNT last Wednesday, 134-110, the Fuel Masters don't need to figure in an extra play off to determine the eighth and final seed.
And while Phoenix limped into the opening round of the playoffs with a 4-7 card, Jarin said their mindset heading into next Wednesday's match against top seed TNT is to try to steal one.
"Right now we're fortunate enough to get the last bus going to the playoffs," Jarin told the Manila Times. " We could have done better but at least, we're in the playoffs."
Admittedly, Jarin said facing TNT won't be easy, noting the Tropang Giga are a stacked-up bunch led by NBA veteran Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, hit-shooting Roger Pogoy, Fil-American guard Mikey Williams, Calvin Oftana and veteran guard Jayson Castro.
"We just have to be inspired and motivated," he stressed. "We're not looking at winning two games, but we're looking at the first game."
Phoenix dropped a 123-119 decision to TNT during their only encounter early in the tournament.
The good thing is, the Fuel Masters already have reliable forward Javee Mocon and Sean Manganti as well as big man Raul Soyud back to bring additional firepower for them.
"Raul is a veteran. He's a very physical defender, another wide body to matchup with Kelly Williams," explained Jarin, who came in to replace Topex Robinson prior to the start of the Governors' Cup. "He's gonna be a real asset coming to playoff."
TNT though lost just once in the elimination phase, and is really motivated to go all the way to the Finals, something the team last achieved during the 2010-11 season when the Tropang Giga, then known as the Tropang Texters, lost to the Petron Blaze Boosters, 4-3 in the title series.2023-03-18T19:48:36Z dg43tfdfdgfd