After taking a nosedive midway through the elimination round of the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup, the NorthPort Batang Pier continue to gather steam with a 94-84 decision against the Alaska Aces Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
It was a much needed win for NorthPort. The Batang Pier are 4-6, tied for the seventh and eighth spots with the NLEX Road Warriors. If they defeat Barangay Ginebra in their last game, the Batang Pier will qualify for the playoffs.
Alaska's loss drops the Aces to 4-7 and into a tie with the Columbian Dyip for the ninth and 10th spots. They will now await the final game results of NLEX and NorthPort, hoping that at least one of them will lose so the Aces could get a chance at fighting for a playoff spot.
Sean Anthony was the Best Player of the Game with 24 points and 17 rebounds in the game. He shot 9 of 16 from the field while adding three steals. After him, Stanley Pringle was their next leading scorer with 21 points while Moala Tautuaa chipped in 14.
Jonathan Grey gave NorthPort a huge lift from the bench as he had 13 markers in only 18 minutes.
"The whole team stepped up. We're finding out teammates. Our second unit was huge because our starters did not play that well," said Anthony. "I lost my confidence midway through the conference but my teammates always picked me up. We're not out of it yet but we're one step closer."
The importance of the game was apparent with the way the two teams played in the first half as both tasted the lead but neither really had control of the match. The big strength for the Batang Pier was their inside scoring as they took full advantage of Alaska's lack of ceiling. However, the Aces stayed in the game due to their superior three-point shooting led by Carl Bryan Cruz who already had three triples in the first two quarters, leading all scorers with 13 points. Sean Anthony paced NorthPort with 11 off the bench in the first half.
The Batang Pier held a slim lead, 40-37, at the break.
NorthPort went on the first attack of the third quarter as they built a 48-39 advantage. However, after calling a timeout, the Aces responded with a 7-0 blast to cut their deficit down to just two points.
Batang Pier had one more third quarter run in them as they brought a 71-60 lead heading into the final quarter.
Alaska opened the fourth with a huge 14-0 run to retake the lead, 74-71. NorthPort thank banked on the skills of Pringle and Anthony as they exploded for a 19-4 counter rally to rebuild a double-digit advantage 90-78 to take complete control of the game.
Cruz led Alaska with 23 points powered by 6 of 11 shooting from the outside. Sonny Thoss added 13 while Simon Enciso scored 11. Absent from their attack was the usually reliable Jeron Teng who only had 2 points in the game.
NorthPort got an added boost during one of their practices before the game against Alaska as Rain or Shine's management sent pancit to thank them as their win against the TNT KaTropa assured the Elasto Painters the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
NorthPort vs. Barangay Ginebra on April 3 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.