By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
ALREADY assured of a top-two finish in the elimination round of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup and the twice-to-beat advantage in the next round, the Northport Batang Pier seek to finish on a high and build momentum heading into the quarterfinals.
Set to play their final game of the eliminations today against the Meralco Bolts at 7 p.m. at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City, the Batang Pier eye win number nine in the midseason PBA tournament from which to take cue from come playoff time.
Experiencing one of its better tournaments in Asia’s first play-for-pay league, a rather new-look Northport is making things happen with contributions coming from different directions.
Leading the charge for the Batang Pier in the tournament is the triumvirate of rookie Robert Bolick, veteran forward Sean Anthony and big man Mo Tautuaa.
Mr. Bolick, the third overall pick in this season’s rookie draft, has been averaging steady numbers of 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per contest while Mr. Anthony has been good for 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals.
Mr. Tautuaa has been stepping up for 16.1 points. 8.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists.
Import Prince Ibeh, meanwhile, is posting norms of 13.6 points, 15.9 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.4 steals.
Kevin Ferrer, one of three players Northport got from a recent trade with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, is coming along well, averaging 20.6 points, six rebounds and four assists since coming on board.
The more balanced attack by the Batang Pier has allowed them to put up a sustained fight resulting to positive results, something that coach Pido Jarencio is very excited about and high on.
“The players are bit banged up but they have been delivering despite that; credit to them. We still have one more game left against Meralco so let’s see where we end up,” said Mr. Jarencio following their most recent win over the Columbian Dyip on July 3.
Out to trip Northport is Meralco (3-6), a team that needs to win all the victories it can get from its last two games, including against the Batang Pier, to keep its quarterfinal hopes alive.
The Bolts have lost four straight games which effectively stymied their push for a spot in the next round.
The most recent of their defeats was against the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 99-88, in an out-of-town game on June 29 in Zamboanga City.
Meralco tried to buck a slow start in said game but just could not go over the hump on its way to the defeat.
Import Delroy James had a solid debut outing for the Bolts, finishing with 35 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
After him, however, it was only Chris Newsome who finished in double digits for Meralco with 10 points.
Meanwhile, playing in the opener at 4:30 p.m. are the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters (4-6) and NLEX Road Warriors (2-8).
Phoenix needs a victory to stay strongly in the mix for the remaining quarterfinal spots.
NLEX, for its part, while already eliminated is out to finish its tournament campaign on a high note.
Both teams are coming off losses in their previous games.