Prince Ibeh missed five of six free throws in the final 97 seconds against Meralco before Robert Bolick bailed them out and a lucky break in the final sequence allowed NorthPort to escape with a thrilling 93-92 win over the Bolts in the PBA Commissioner's Cup on Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Bolick blew past Cliff Hodge for the layup with 4.3 seconds remaining as the Batang Pier took a 9-2 win-loss record heading into the playoffs of the mid-season tournament.
In the final play, Chris Newsome drove baseline off a broken play and went for a reverse layup that only rimmed out as time expired.
"It's all about team effort. The players really wanted to finish strong before going to the playoffs," said NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio.
Ibeh was 9-of-16 from the free throw line. But he made up for that by grabbing 15 rebounds and swatting three shots while also coming up with 15 points.
It was Bolick, though, who topscored for the team with 18 points, none bigger than his layup in the final seconds, to go with three rebounds, two assists, and the same number of steals.
NorthPort has yet to know which team it will face in the quarterfinals where the Batang Pier will enjoy a twice-to-beat incentive. But Jarencio and his wards are just glad to ride the crest of this victory going into the playoffs.
"We'll see what happens," Jarencio said.
Meralco, meanwhile, reeled to a fifth straight loss for a 3-7 tally which lessened the Bolts' chances of making it to the playoffs.
Newsome led Meralco with 21 points.
NorthPort 93 - Bolick 18, Ibeh 15, Mercado 12, Elorde 10, Ferrer 9, Lanete 9, Tautuaa 6, Cruz 5, Flores 5, Taha 4, Arana 0, Gabayni 0.
Meralco 92 - Newsome 21, James 17, Amer 16, Hodge 13, De Ocampo 10, Faundo 4, Almazan 4, Quinto 4, Tolomia 2, Hugnatan 1, Salva 0, Pinto 0, Canaleta 0, Jackson 0.
Quarterscores: 22-28, 45-43, 62-67, 93-92.
NorthPort's win gave Rain or Shine and Magnolia safe passage into the quarterfinals.
Sean Anthony sat out the game due to a swollen ankle.
Delroy James put up a triple double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Meralco vs. San Miguel, July 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.