NorthPort leaned on Michael Qualls in the final frame to drop NLEX, 102-94, and stay in the hunt for the quarterfinals of the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Qualls drained 11 markers in a decisive fourth quarter for the Batang Pier, which had to dig out of a 15-point hole in the first half to overcome the Road Warriors later on. He finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Christian Standhardinger also had a massive 23-point, 19-rebound double-double for NorthPort, which ended a two-game losing streak to climb to a 4-6 tie with Columbian Dyip in the standings.
"It's a total team effort. Players wanted to win this game because this was a do-or-die game fr us. If we lost it, we're out for the conference," coach Pido Jarencio said after the game.
NorthPort played catch-up for most of the game after a defensive-minded NLEX side held them to just 16.7 percent (4-for-24) shooting in the second quarter and to just 26.1 percent for the entire first half. Sean Anthony injected some much-needed offense in that third quarter swing for the Batang Pier which later led to a 10-3 run, capped by a pair of threes from Qualls and Kevin Ferrer to help their side finally get on top, 76-73, at the 3:10 mark.
Another fourth quarter comeback by NLEX, which overhauled a 26-point deficit last week against Magnolia to notch their fifth straight win, appeared to be in the works for the Road Warriors, but Qualls had a counter for every basket from their opponents and even scored nine straight of his own to help NorthPort fend off any intentions of an upset.
"Our problem right now is consistency. We just have to be consistent. Offense, defense we have to work as a team. We still need some adjustments; we still lack chemistry. But despite that, we're here competing. The team fought," Jarencio said.
The Batang Pier are at eighth place and are looking to win their last elimination round game against Barangay Ginebra this Sunday to give itself a chance of locking down one of the lower seeds.
"Against Ginebra, I hope we get the breaks of the game. We're hoping we can still make the playoffs. When the playoffs come, it's a different story of course. We all know that. We have to pick up some momentum," said Jarencio.
Meanwhile, NLEX (8-2) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end and lost only its second game of the conference. It was also the team's first loss in over a month.
Manny Harris led a spirited effort with 34 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal, while Kiefer Ravena added 16 markers, 4 dimes and 3 boards.
"We had a five-game win streak and at some point the streak has got to end. And in this game, NorthPort wanted it more than we did. They put in more effort than we did, their energy was higher than our energy," coach Yeng Guiao described.
NorthPort outworked the Road Warriors on the glass, 61-52, which led to 16 second chance points and 20 fast break points on the other end.
"For us we need to lose this way to be able to get a realistic perspective of where we are right now. Sometimes when you're at the top, you feel you're good enough, you feel you've done enough work. But we haven't really done that. We want to look at this game in a positive way even if we lost. We learned more from this game than if we won it," added Guiao.
Even if the team has already locked up a twice-to-beat advantage for the quarterfinals, Guiao said NLEX is still shooting for the no. 1 seed to avoid "any complications."
"There's an incentive in pairings because you get to play the no. 8 (seed). Of course, at this point we don't know who the no. 8 is, but there's not really a weak team here. But at least we know that they're struggling a bit because they're at no. 8," Guiao said.
NorthPort (102) -- Qualls 36, Standhardinger 23, Anthony 19, Ferrer 9, Elorde 7, Taha 4, Lanete 2, Mercado 2, King 0, Escoto 0.
NLEX (94) -- Harris 34, Ravena 16, Quinahan 10, Erram 7, Cruz 7, Fonacier 6, Miranda 5, Paniamogan 4, Taulava 3, Soyud 2, Alas 0, Ighalo 0.
Quarters: 25-28, 43-51, 81-78, 102-94.
- This is the first time this conference that NLEX made less than 10 threes, going 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) against NorthPort.
- Kevin Alas made his season debut Wednesday, but missed both his shots in seven minutes.
- NorthPort vs. Barangay Ginebra on Nov. 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
- NLEX vs. Alaska on Nov. 20 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo