NORTHPORT may be down, but not out.
Riding the able shoulders of their Big Two, the Batang Pier stopped erstwhile streaking NLEX dead on its tracks with a 102-94 shocker last night in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Michael Qualls tallied a game-high 36 points on top of 11 rebounds and five assists while Christian Standhardinger notched 23 markers and a game-best 19 boards in leading NorthPort’s surge over a Road Warriors’ side whose five-game roll ended.
After improving to 4-7 overall, NorthPort now shares seventh with idle Columbian and can claim an outright slot in the eight-team quarterfinals should it wind up the eliminations with another win against Ginebra on Sunday.
Another scenario is for the Batang Pier being relegated to a tie for eighth and playing off for the last spot in the next round. But that is something coach Pido Jarencio could live with, more so after the Batang Pier snapped their two-game slide and then stared at an early 15-point deficit against NLEX.
“The players want to win this game kasi do-or-die game for us. Kundi out na, wala na tayo for the conference,” said Jarencio.
“Bad start lang kami. First quarter bad start pero pagdating ng second quarter, third (period) gumanda na takbo. Iyon na, naging consistent kami,” added Jarencio.
“Ang problema namin kasi is consistency, offense and defense. Pero tonight we worked as a team. May konti pang problema sa chemistry. Pero kahit papaano we’re here, competing. Lumalaban iyung team.”
The loss, only its second in 10 games, hardly mattered for NLEX as it remained on top of the heap.
But the Road Warriors’ chances of clinching the No. 1 seeding and squaring off against the eighth-ranked team in the next round now hinges mostly on whether they would win their last eliminations assignment against Alaska next Wednesday.
Manny Harris tried to brighten NLEX’s hopes by hitting seven of his first 10 shots. But he went 5-for-19 from the field the rest of the way, failing to sustain any momentum due to the fouls given up on him by the Paolo Taha-anchored defenders of NorthPort.
Harris finished with 34 points but only Kiefer Ravena’s 16 points and JR Quinahan’s 10 markers were the most the former NBA campaigner could get from his local teammates.
In contrast, NorthPort also drew 19 points from Sean Anthony, 10 of those coming in the pivotal third quarter where the Batang Pier outscored the Batang Pier 38-27 to raze a 43-51 deficit and take an 81-78 lead into the final canto.
Qualls took over in the final 8:23 of the game where he scattered 11 of his points and put NorthPort safely ahead 100-87, only 1:25 to go.