It was billed as a battle for survival and both teams certainly played like it, dishing off and taking the best of shots like nothing else mattered.
Too bad only one team remained standing in the end. For how long, though, is another question.
“At least, we are now assured of a playoffs for a quarterfinals berth,” said Pido Jarencio, whose NorthPort Batang Pier proved steadier in a grit and grind 94-84 victory over Alaska on Wednesday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Now, if we get lucky against Ginebra, thank you,” Jarencio added. “We get an automatic quarterfinal [ticket].”
The Batang Pier fought to be in this spot—four wins, six losses—after a promising start was nearly laid to waste by six straight losses. With Stanley Pringle and Sean Anthony leading a furious finish, NorthPort won a second straight game and pushed Alaska to the brink.
NorthPort’s next assignment is Barangay Ginebra, which ousted Meralco in the second game, 86-76, behind 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks by Greg Slaughter.
A win by the Batang Pier there gives them a trouble-free entry to the quarterfinals. A loss drops them in a tie with Alaska.
The Aces aren’t in a complete heap on the floor just yet—but they’re down on their knees after ending the classification phase with a 4-7 card. And they’ll have to pray results of other matches go their way if they want to stay in contention for a quarterfinal berth.
Alaska had the game within reach, scoring eight points in the first 70 seconds of the fourth quarter to eat into an 11-point deficit. Jvee Casio fed Ronald Pascual for an easy two and then added a triple as the Aces stretched that run to 14-0 for a 74-71 lead, 9:34 remaining.
Anthony stopped the Alaska run with a basket and Pringle bunched together six points as the Batang Pier took a 79-74 lead. Anthony later buried the dagger that made it 92-81, 1:23 remaining.
Anthony finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds while Pringle added 21.
“Stanley carried us in the second half,” said Jarencio. “Actually, it was a total team effort but Stanley and Sean [stood out].”
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