This round goes to Perez
The relatively high interest in an early PBA Governors’ Cup elimination round game featuring two teams in the lower tier of the popularity rankings centered on two of the league’s freshmen who will contest this year’s Rookie of the Year (ROY) award.
Columbian’s CJ Perez and NorthPort’s Robert Bolick, whose careers seem welded at the hip, did not disappoint.
Bolick struck hard early, but Perez had the last laugh, scoring 16 points in the third quarter to fuel Columbian’s 114-108 victory over NorthPort on Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Perez finished with a game-high 26 points and added 11 rebounds to navigate the Dyip’s joyride to a 2-1 record. Khapri Alston also came up big for Columbian, knocking in 25 points on top of 17 rebounds.
Bolick didn’t do too bad—the Batang Pier playmaker led his team with 23 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
But Perez got the win—and Columbian coach Johnedel Cardel said it was a big one.
“Going into this game, I told the players we needed to beat this team if we want to go to the quarterfinals,” Cardel said. “It’s another close game, but this time we ended up winning.”
NorthPort, which got 22 points and 14 rebounds from Mo Tautuaa, led by eight at the end of the first quarter and the first half.
But Perez, who also had six assists, spearheaded a 38-point third quarter by the Dyip by dropping 16 points there to help his squad to a 90-85 advantage entering the final frame.
His follow-up made it 110-101 before Alston scored for a 112-103 lead with 1:34 to play.
Perez was selected first in the PBA Draft last year. And with second overall pick Ray Parks Jr. of Blackwater starting his season late, focus on the rookie race centered on the Columbian hotshot and Bolick, the No. 3 overall pick.
The two stars were rivals even during their NCAA years, when Bolick’s San Beda squad turned Perez’s Lyceum team into its favorite finals rental pony.
Their careers converged in the pros, where they became teammates at Gilas Pilipinas in the recent Fiba World Cup, and turned in the more memorable performances in an otherwise forgettable stint by the national quintet.
And even with Parks surging to ROY conversation with huge games, Perez and Bolick seem to have a head start in that contest.
Perez was all praises for his rival after the game.
“I’m so happy to see Robert’s game improve big time. His confidence is really high and he really leads his team,” Perez said in Filipino. “I’m so grateful to be able to play against him.”
Bolick left the venue in a huff, but Perez said he had a “chance to talk to him after and I just told him he played a good game.”
TNT torched Phoenix, 123-118, in a back-and-forth shootout in the second game.
Troy Rosario led a shooting clinic by the KaTropa, who dialed in 18 shots from long distance on a blistering 60-percent clip.
Rosario hit 6-of-9 from downtown for 32 points, just two shy of matching a career-high.
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