It was not their best performance, but the undermanned NorthPort Batang Pier still did enough to score a tough 83-79 victory against the import-less NLEX Road Warriors, Saturday night at the Smart-Araneta coliseum.
Once again, the bench turned out to be a big factor for the Batang Pier led by Sean Anthony and Robert Bolick. It was the youngster who powered their comeback in the third quarter and it was the veteran who closed out the show.
Bolick led NorthPort with 18 points, 10 of which he scored in the third quarter. Anthony chipped in 17 points including the final field goal of the ball game and two insurance free throws that got them the win.
NLEX fought well, taking into consideration that they did not have an import as Tony Mitchell was not able to get the required license from the Games and Amusements Board. The Road Warriors still pushed the Batang Pier to their limits and even had an opportunity to reclaim the lead late in the game but Pince Ibeh got his hand on a Marion Magat three-point attempt.
The Batang Pier import finished with 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field while adding 19 rebounds, two steals, and six blocks.
"We gotta give a lot of credit to Prince," said Anthony after the game. "He's our anchor on defense. When Stanley (Pringle) comes back, they're going to be great together."
Moala Tautuaa and Paolo Taha also scored in double digits for NorthPort with a combined 24 points.
It was the second straight win for NorthPort, which was still missing the services of Stanley Pringle, Garvo Lanete and Bradwyn Guinto, and the second straight loss for NLEX.
The Road Warriors gave a spirited effort in the first half even if they were playing without an import. Coach Yeng Guiao sent in player and player and they chipped in through a variety of ways. JP Erram scored the final basket of the first half as NLEX held a 43-35 lead heading into the break.
Keeping the score low certainly was the right game plan for them as they lacked a big weapon in their import. The Road Warriors worked hard on defense as they forced the Batang Pier to less 33% shooting from the field in the first two quarters.
NorthPort started making a move on the Road Warriors midway through the third quarter as Bolick heated up. He scored 10 points in the period including a layup that got them within two points. The Batang Pier were able to force a turnover on the next play with Jonathan Grey capitalizing with a triple to give his team the lead, 55-54.
NLEX reclaimed the lead momentarily with three free throws from Kenneth Ighalo but free throws from Moala Tautuaa and a basket from Nico Elorde gave the Batang Pier a 59-57 advantage heading into the final period.
Ighalo led the fight for fight for NLEX with 18 points while JP Erram had 12 points and nine boards.
NorthPort 83 - Bolick 18, Anthony 17, Ibeh 15, Tautuaa 14, Taha 10, Elorde 6, Grey 3, Lanete 0, Gabayni 0.
NLEX 79 - Ighalo 18, Soyud 12, Galanza 11, Erram 10, Fonacier 7, Tiongson 6, Paniamogan 5, Magat 4, Paredes 2, Baguio 2, Lao 2, Taulava 0, Rios 0, Tallo 0.
Quarters: 18-25, 35-43, 59-57, 83-79.
- The stint of Mitchell for the Road Warriors takes another tough turn. He was originally their pick for an import but his arrival to the Philippines was delayed three times without an explanation. Curtis Washington ended up playing for NLEX in the first game.
- Mitchell was given another chance by management, even though they were very unhappy with how the situation turned out, but the import will have to wait for a few more days before his debut.
- Stanley Pringle missed his second straight game for NorthPort as he is still recovering from having an operation to remove bone spurs.
- NorthPort manage to score the victory even if their starting guards shoot poorly from the field. Jonathan Grey only had one field goal in seven tries while Nico Elorde was 2 of 10 from the field. Amidst their struggles, the two had key contributions in the game. Grey had a crucial three that got them the lead in the third quarter while Elorde made a three-point shot and a free throw late in the fourth.
NorthPort: May 29 vs TNT KaTropa at the Mall of Asia Arena
NLEX: May 29 vs Alaska Aces at the Mall of Asia Arena