The undermanned NorthPort Batang Pier erased a 25-point deficit to secure an impressive overtime victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 107-105, and extend their winning run in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday. Robert Bolick came up with crucial plays down the stretch, hitting the three-point shot that tied the score at the end of regulation as well as the go-ahead basket in the final two minutes of overtime.
Mo Tautuaa delivered a career-high 34 points on 5-for-9 shooting from downtown, including the last three-pointer that gave his team a five-point cushion with 26 seconds left.
The Batang Pier notched their third straight win for a 6-1 record, grabbing a share of the number one spot alongside TNT. The Elasto Painters, on the other hand, saw their two-game streak come to an end as they fell to 2-3.
"We only had eight guys but the heart of the players was incredible," said NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio. "I give credit to the players who played tonight. I did not expect that we'll recover from being down by 20 in the third quarter."
NorthPort successfully cut a 25-point deficit to eight in just five minutes of action, following a three-point barrage made by Garvo Lanete and Tautuaa early in the fourth quarter. Prince Ibeh muscled his way inside to make it a two-possession game, but Rain or Shine managed to bring its lead back to 11 points in the last two minutes.
The Batang Pier closed the final frame with a 14-3 rally highlighted by three-point shots from Lanete, Tautuaa, and Bolick. They almost lost the opportunity to force overtime after Bolick committed a turnover. But Gabe Norwood also lost the ball on the other end, which paved the way for Bolick's redemptive shot from downtown and Tautuaa's heroics in the extra period.
Bolick finished with 22 points and nine assists, while Lanete contributed 15 points including five triples. Denzel Bowles starred for the Elasto Painters with 41 points, 21 rebounds, and six assists but he also made 10 turnovers. Javee Mocon added 16 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.
The injury-plagued Batang Pier are awaiting the arrival of Sol Mercado, Kevin Ferrer, and Jervy Cruz.
The three former Ginebra players, who were shipped to the Batang Pier in exchange for Stanley Pringle, will play their debut game for NorthPort on Saturday against Blackwater.
Jarencio believes that the arrival of the new guys came at the right time.
"I'm excited about the three guys coming in because I'm positive that they can help us," he said. "Somehow, they'll be able to address what we lack."
Ferrer will take the place of Jonathan Grey, who needs 10 to 12 months to recover from a freak accident that tore his patellar tendon. Mercado can fill the void left not only by Pringle but also by Nico Elorde, who is expected to be out for four weeks due to a hamstring injury. Cruz will be a key replacement as big men Lervin Flores and Bradwyn Guinto continue to nurse their respective knee injuries.
Mercado, who watched NorthPort's overtime win against Rain on Shine Wednesday, thinks his new team resembled Ginebra's 'never-say-die' spirit when they fought back from a 25-point deficit despite fielding only eight players.
"The boys got game and that's the kind of culture I want to bring over here. I think it's a winning culture and it looks like they have it," he said. "Obviously that comes from the head coach. He came from the 'never-say-die' culture, they kind of followed his lead and it was amazing."
Jarencio is also excited about the impending reunion with Cruz and Ferrer, his former players when he was still the head coach of University of Santo Tomas.
"I took care of these kids, I was the one who raised them. They got separated from their father but now they are back," he said. "I hope we help each other. What's important is that they help the team and they help themselves."
Cruz, Ferrer, and Mercado will join the Batang Pier's practice for the first time on Thursday.
"We'll just teach them how we do things," said Jarencio. "It will be easy because they're smart and they came from [Ginebra] coach Tim [Cone]. Of course those mentored by coach Tim are disciplined players so I won't encounter any problems. Plus they also have championship experience, which is important for any player."
NorthPort 107 - Tautuaa 34, Bolick 22, Lanete 16, Anthony 14, Taha 12, Ibeh 9, Arana 0, Gabayni 0.
Rain or Shine 105 - Bowles 41, Mocon 16, Daquioag 12, Nambatac 11, Rosales 10, Belga 5, Norwood 4, Ponferada 2, Borboran 2, Torres 2, Alejandro 0.
Quarterscores: 17-25, 40-49, 63-84, 100-100, 107-105.
Prince Ibeh missed four free throws in the dying seconds that left the door open for Rain or Shine but Denzel Bowles opted to heave a long shot instead of calling a timeout that would have allowed them to design a better play in the final possession.
NorthPort only fielded eight players in the gutsy win. The team's list of injured personnel includes Nico Elorde (hamstring), Jonathan Grey (knee), Bradwyn Guinto (knee), and Lervin Flores (knee). Grey is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Newly-acquired Sol Mercado, Kevin Ferrer, and Jervy Cruz did not yet play for the Batang Pier. The three players were part of the blockbuster trade that sent star guard Stanley Pringle to Ginebra.
NorthPort vs. Blackwater Elite, June 22 (Saturday) at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Rain or Shine vs. Columbian Dyip June 23 (Sunday) at the Batangas City Coliseum.