Twin shockers from NLEX, NorthPort
With their favored rivals losing key personnel for different reasons, NLEX and NorthPort pulled off victories that tightened up the race for the eight quarterfinal slots going into the final month of the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup eliminations.
With new reinforcement Manny Harris proving nearly as good as TNT counterpart KJ McDaniels, the Road Warriors slapped a first loss on the KaTropa with a 126-113 triumph that moved NLEX just a win off the lead with a 6-1.
The KaTropa, who came into the game with a league best 7-0 start, trailed 84-100 early in the last quarter as the loss of top point guard Jayson Castro due to a calf injury early in the game left them floundering in offense in the second half.
Earlier, the Batang Pier humbled the third-running San Miguel Beermen, 127-119, behind a super-sharp trio that included Christian Standhardinger, who was playing his first game for NorthPort after “losing” his place in the SMB lineup in an unwise and unpopular swap for Mo Tautuaa.
The 2017 first round pick, who became the most celebrated bench-warmer and sub for the Beermen, Christian finally showed his mettle as a starter by firing 18 points on top of five rebounds and seven assists.
“I just wanted to show that I can do better than sit on the bench,” later said Standhardinger, who provided solid backup for new NorthPort import Michael Qualls (40 points) and the resurgent Jervy Cruz (21).
The explosive Batang Pier show rendered to naught the tournament high 56 points of SMB import Dez Wells, who had scored 52 when the Beermen also lost to Barangay Ginebra, 129-124, last Oct. 13.
Despite the loss, the Beermen kept third place at 5-2 followed by the Gin Kings and the Meralco Bolts at 4-2. Columbian Dyip stood sixth at 4-4 with NorthPort and defending champion Magnolia bringing up the rear of the quarterfinal hopefuls at 3-4.
The top four teams after the eliminations that will end on Nov. 20 get a twice-to-beat bonus in the quarterfinals scheduled to start on Nov. 21. The best-of-five semifinal playoffs are set on Dec. 16 to 22 with the best-of-seven finals reeling off on Jan. 3.
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