Road Warriors stake streak vs struggling Batang Pier

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    NLEX coach Yeng Guiao knows NorthPort is bound to snap out of its funk one of these days.

    It’s the reason why the seasoned tactician wants the Road Warriors to stay focused when they tangle with the scrambling Batang Pier today in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    Alaska aims to continue its rise while Phoenix Pulse tries to fan its own flickering hopes when they collide in the nightcap.

    A two-game winning streak have pushed the Aces from the cellar and another victory will boost them from eighth and into a share of seventh with idle Columbian.

    The Fuel Masters have lost their last three but still maintain hopes of forging a tie for the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals should they win tonight and over Blackwater on Friday.

    Ties for the last spot would first be broken via the quotient before the two best teams clash in a playoff game. A knockout game will resolve any two-way tie.

    NorthPort may fall into such a deadlock if it fails to cut short a two-game slide, which Guiao himself attributes to a couple of factors.

    “If NorthPort hadn’t lost Robert Bolick and C-Stand (Christian Standhardinger) had come in earlier with their new import they would be higher in the standings,” noted Guiao.

    Bolick has been sidelined for the rest of the season and perhaps well into the next by a knee injury he suffered last Oct. 23, which incidentally marked the team debut of new acquisition Standhardinger and replacement import Michael Qualls.

    Before the injury, Bolick was averaging 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists and was one of the team’s acknowledged team leaders and main stabilizer.

    Qualls (34.0 points, 14.3 rebounds, 2.67 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.67 blocks) and Standhardinger (25 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists) have been doing their part but the clear lack of support have put to waste their efforts.

    Still, the NorthPort threat is very real for Guiao. “It does not make them any less dangerous when we play them tomorrow,” he said, referring to the Batang Pier’s 3-6 slate.

    Already assured of a win-once advantage in the quarterfinals, NLEX is looking to stretch its winning streak to six and stay on track to finish the eliminations as the top seed.

    NLEX is also driven by its own burning desire to complete its big turnaround from a cellar-finish in the last Commissioner’s Cup and to keep on improving for the playoffs.

    “We need to preserve our gains by improving our consistency and this game is a big test,” said Guiao. “Our focus is on execution and trying to get better for the next round.”

    Since coming in to replace Olu Ashaolu four games back, Manny Harris has been undefeated with NLEX, even helping engineer that memorable fightback against Magnolia that resulted in an 86-85 cliffhanger last Sunday.