By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
LEAGUE-LEADING Northport Batang Pier go for their fifth win in a row in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup, and solo leadership in the standings, when they return to action today against the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Set for 4:30 p.m., the Batang Pier, joint first with a 7-1 card along with the idle TNT KaTropa, seek to extend their streak and fan their push for a top-two finish at the end of the elimination round of the midseason PBA tournament versus an undermanned Phoenix (2-4) crew which is still searching for consistency in winning.
Playing in the 7 p.m. main game, meanwhile, are the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (3-2) against the San Miguel Beermen (2-3).
Northport comes into today’s contest after its big 127-99 victory over the import-less Blackwater Elite on June 22.
The Batang Pier debuted their new acquisitions from a recent trade with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings — Sol Mercado, Jervy Cruz and Kevin Ferrer — in said game, and all of them made a good account of themselves.
Mr. Mercado had 14 points and five assists, Mr. Cruz had a double-double 16 points and 11 rebounds and Mr. Ferrer finished with 23 point and six assists in helping their new team in the wire-to-wire victory.
Team leading scorer Sean Anthony had 22 points and 11 rebounds while rookie Robert Bolick had a near triple-double of 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Import Prince Ibeh had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Northport.
“Our goal from here on is to claim the top two and earn the twice-to-beat incentive in the next round,” said Northport coach Pido Jarencio, in the vernacular, following their win.
“Like what I’ve said, the three players we got from Ginebra would help us. And they proved that today. They helped improve our rotation,” he added, referring to Messrs. Mercado, Cruz and Ferrer.
Out to halt the steamrolling Batang Pier, meanwhile, are the Fuel Masters, who will continue to be sans the league-suspended Calvin Abueva.
Phoenix is fresh from a 99-96 loss to Magnolia on June 22 that saw it fall back to earth after halting a three-game losing streak previously.
Import Richard Howell paced the Fuel Masters last time around with 36 points and 20 rebounds but it was not enough to tow his team to the victory against Magnolia, which had to dig deep to emerge victorious.
Matthew Wright had 19 points and eight assists while RJ Jazul finished with 15 points.
Phoenix continues to miss the services of All-Star forward Abueva, who was suspended by the league indefinitely over on-court actions he made which were deemed unbecoming of a professional by the PBA.
Before being canned, Mr. Abueva was averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games.