DuVaughn Maxwell (right) swats away a Kevin Ebona short stab. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

DuVaughn Maxwell (right) swats away a Kevin Ebona short stab. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Phoenix caught a big fish when it needed to on Sunday and moved one step ahead of teams also chasing for lower-tier spots in the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs.

Getting a huge game from rookie Encho Serrano, the Fuel Masters rallied and stunned the Converge FiberXers, 106-103, at Smart Araneta Coliseum for a 3-5 record in the season-ending conference.

“We got a good rest coming into today’s game so we were ready to run and up and down for 48 minutes,” said Phoenix coach Jamike Jarin, whose FiberXers had a break since a 25-point romp of Terrafirma eight days ago.

Serrano’s season-high 28 points wheeled Phoenix back from a double-digit deficit to climb to eighth spot, ahead of three teams—Terrafirma, NorthPort and Rain or Shine—with similar 2-6 records.

Rain or Shine is on deck, and another victory could be the cushion Phoenix needs to make the playoffs.

Jarin and Phoenix are going to be challenged by a Rain or Shine team desperate for a win and possibly a new import to field after Greg Smith II got hurt in a loss to NLEX the other night.

A loss to the Elasto Painters and Phoenix will have to do it the hard way against Meralco on Friday at the Big Dome and Barangay Ginebra the following Sunday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

“If they (Rain or Shine) are gonna play with a new import, we’re going to be coming in blind, unless they bring somebody who has played in the PBA,” said Jarin.

It’s the biggest win in the young history of Jarin’s PBA tenure, coming at the expense of former college rival Aldin Ayo.

Ayo produced his dream NCAA title run for Letran over Jarin and San Beda in 2015 before the two met multiple times as coaches in the UAAP.

“It was a good chess match,” the Phoenix coach said of the tactical battle with his old foe.

Converge lost for just the third time in 10 matches, failing to further bolster its chances of nabbing one of the four twice-to-beat incentives in the quarterfinals.

The FiberXers got themselves hurt by losing a big lead while struggling to stop Serrano, whose play came amid inconsistent time on the floor this conference. INQ

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