NorthPort Batang Pier head coach Pido Jarencio was all smiles as sat down for the postgame press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena. Jarencio wasn't smiling during the game as NorthPort barely held on for a 99-94 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Friday. NorthPort nearly squandered a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.
"I got nervous," he admitted in Filipino.
The Batang Pier was comfortably ahead for much of the game before things got interesting in the fourth period. Rain or Shine chipped away with a balanced effort. An 8-0 run powered by Rey Nambatac got the Batang Pier to within 91-87. But import Mychal Ammons and Robert Bolick held the fort for NorthPort with timely baskets.
No matter how ugly the final sequence was, Jarencio was happy with the outcome of their opening match.
"A win is a win," said Jarencio. "We really got nervous there. They were a strong team. But so long as we won, we're happy."
Ammons did much of the damage for NorthPort with 25 points and 19 rebounds. Bolick, though, hit the crucial baskets on his way to 20 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
Jarencio was all praises for Bolick, who was fresh from a stint with the national team at the FIBA World Cup.
"[Bolick's] confidence was really sky-high," he said. "He still made some mistakes but the important thing is he contributed to the win."
Rain or Shine however could not generate enough offense early.
Returning import Joel Wright and the Elasto Painters' offense was not efficient as the team shot just 38 percent from the field. Wright finished with 22 points and 14 boards but he only hit seven of 19 attempts and missed all three of his shots from long range.
Coach Caloy Garcia said Wright may have been pressing in his first game back in the league since 2016 with Magnolia.
"I think in the beginning of the game he wanted to make an impact right away. I think he was too eager," Garcia said. "I just told him to enter the game and play the way he did during the tune-up games because he was really playing good. Then today, surprisingly, probably he wanted to showcase himself immediately. I told him just get the locals involved and it's going to be easy."
The rest of the team also seemed to be deferring to Wright too much in the first half. The team tallied just seven assists in the first two quarters to dig itself a big hole early and spend the rest of the game catching up to the Batang Pier.
"I think what happened in the beginning was we went to Joel too much and I was telling the players that it's not how we play. Our offense is basically sharing the ball. I told the locals not to make him the first option. We want the ball movement first before we go to the import," Garcia said.
The offense looked a bit smoother in the second half, where Rain or Shine managed nine more assists to erase a 24-point Batang Pier lead and come to within four, 91-87, with around two minutes left in the final period.
"That's what happened in the second half, that's why we played better. But missed free throws. ... We actually took care of the ball today, we only had eight turnovers. If we want to win games, we have to make free throws," he said.
Rain or Shine lines up against the Columbian Dyip on Sunday. Columbian is coming off a win over Alaska.
"We know how good Columbian has been. Their import is probably a good pickup for them because that's what they need -- a big man who can play the post, score from the post," Garcia said. "They won [on Friday] so we have to at least come out better, start the game better and get the win, at least to keep up in the standings."
NorthPort 99 - Ammons 25, Bolick 20, Ferrer 12, Lanete 8, King 8, Cruz 6, Tautuaa 5, Taha 4, Elorde 4, Escoto 4, Mercado 3.
Rain or Shine 94 - Wright 22, Nambatac 19, Yap 15, Belga 11, Norwood 7, Mocon 7, Daquioag 5, Ponferrada 3, Torres 3, Exciminiano 2, Rosales 0.
Quarterscores: 29-13, 58-38, 83-66, 99-94
It was the first game of Jerramy King and Russel Escoto who arrived via separate trades, for NorthPort. They combined for 12 points. On teh other side, Ping Exciminiano, who was traded for Maverick Ahanmisi, scored two.
Ammons last played for TNT in 2016. He led the team to a semifinal stint.
NorthPort vs. Magnolia on September 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rain or Shine vs. Columbian Dyip on September 22 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.