By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE NORTHPORT Batang Pier rolled to their fifth win in six games in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday, sending the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok to a second straight defeat, 102-99, in league action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Struggled at the beginning of the contest, the Batang Pier collectively picked it up on both ends of the court as the match progressed to keep at bay and outlast the Hotshots, and strengthen their position in the top-half of the standings.
The Hotshots got it going early, racing to an 11-2 lead in the first four minutes of the opening quarter, led by Robbie Herndon, Ian Sangalang and new import James Farr.
Northport tried to claw its way back after but was staved off by Magnolia, which continued to hold sway after the first quarter, 23-16.
The Batang Pier, however, were undeterred and did not waste much time in charging back anew in the second frame.
They would come to within two points, 34-32, with 5:38 to go in the first half, eventually tying the count at 43-all with a minute left.
Northport did not stop there as Sean Anthony and Jonathan Grey conspired to a 5-0 finish to hand their team a 48-43 advantage by the halftime break.
The break hardly slowed down the Batang Pier as they came out firing at the start of the third period, outscoring their opponents, 11-2, with just two minutes lapsing to push their lead to 14 points, 59-45.
Magnolia managed to squeeze in a 9-3 run after to narrow the gap to eight points, 62-54 midway into period.
The Batang Pier though would regain its footing to stay ahead, 70-62, heading into the final canto.
The two teams started the fourth quarter looking to establish early control to build momentum for the homestretch.
Northport had inside track first before Magnolia countered to stay within striking distance.
The count was at 82-75 with seven minutes left, and the Batang Pier still on top, before Northport went on a 5-0 run to create another double-digit separation, 87-75, at the 6:29 mark.
Northport was ahead, 92-83, with less than three minutes remaining only to see Magnolia make a late charge to come within three points, 98-95, with 35 seconds left.
The Hotshots tried to push it further but two free throws from Mr. Anthony with nine seconds to go made it a five-point cushion, 100-95, for the Batang Pier and eventually put the game away.
Mr. Anthony led Northport with 22 points, eight rebounds and five steals. For Magnolia (0-2) it was Mr. Sangalang who top-scored with 21 points.