Phoenix rookie Encho Serrano. –PBA IMAGES

Phoenix rookie Encho Serrano. –PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines—Phoenix found a hero in its upset victory over playoff-bound Converge in the PBA Governors’ Cup tournament on Sunday at Araneta Coliseum.

To the FiberXers’ surprise, the Fuel Masters put their trust in a wild card someone who did not even play much in the first quarter–Encho Serrano.

“Coach Jamike always told me to stay ready,” said the shifty guard in Filipino after their thrilling 106-103 win. “In the first half, I really wanted to help so when he put me in, my confidence didn’t fade. Knowing coach Jamike, I knew he would use me so my confidence stayed. I really wanted to help the team so I did my best.”

The rookie finished with a team and career-high 28 points in just 21 minutes of play. He had more points than starters Tyler Tio (16) and Simon Camacho (4) combined.

His high-scoring night also turned out to be an efficient one, as he registered a 68 percent field goal shooting clip, sinking 11 of his 16 shot attempts including two triples.

When asked if he would try and eclipse his performance as the elimination round nears its end, Serrano answered almost immediately.

“Of course [I’m ready]. Every time we play, what we do is just the same. Our next game will be hard because we’re tired but we won’t think of it. Now, we’re more challenged and inspired after this, this is a big win. We’ll always be ready.”

Jarin also lauded Serrano’s performance, stating he did just as much on defense as he did on offense.

“We really wanted to disrupt their flow on offense. We did a great job in the first quarter but eventually, we struggled a bit. Good thing we were able to recover because of this young kid (Serrano) over here,” said Jarin.

As the playoffs loom, Jarin expressed how proud he is of his team.

“I’m very proud of this team. Like you all saw, he didn’t even play in the first quarter because we have a very selfless group of guys. We were just trying to get Jazul going. I explained that to Encho, that’s why his minutes went down,” told Jarin.

“Because RJ was struggling, an opportunity came for Encho to go in. And as you can see, this group of guys is very, very selfless. I’m very proud of them.”

The Fuel Masters’ unselfishness was in full effect on Sunday as they outlasted the FiberXers in the assists department, 22-16.

With the crucial win f, Phoenix, which now holds a 3-5 record, escaped a stalemate with Northport, Rain or Shine and Terrafirma (all 2-6) and lept to the all-important eighth seed.

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