Batang Pier snap FiberXers’ run as Ayo benches Miller to drive a point
Eager to extend its win streak and hell-bent on not missing the playoffs this time out, NorthPort on Sunday night pounced on short-handed Converge, hacking out a 112-97 victory to stay in the race for a quarterfinals berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Batang Pier rode the hot hands of newcomer William Navarro, who had himself a night with 29 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists—all career-bests—leading NorthPort in annexing a third-straight win to rise to 6-5 while putting an end to the FiberXers’ impressive seven-game run.
“We were expecting Converge to play at full force. But eventually, their import didn’t play, so it became favorable for us. It became easier for us,” coach Pido Jarencio said in Filipino. “[Don’t get me wrong], Converge is a tough team. But our mindset was that with or without an import, we will be ready for them.”
NorthPort truly showed the enemy no quarter, dousing Converge’s gutsy fightbacks all night long behind Navarro and cornerstone Robert Bolick, who turned in 26 points to help the Batang Pier to leads of as big as 19 points.
“I knew that Will and Bert would step up in games like this, so I’m really proud of this group,” said Jarencio.
Resident import Prince Ibeh was just as big for the Batang Pier, as he put up 19 points that went with 15 rebounds, making the most out of the absence of counterpart Quincy Miller.
The Converge import was dressed and benched, a punishment he got for coming late to practice, according to coach Aldin Ayo.
“He overextended his birthday celebration. He was late for an hour,” the rookie coach said of his Miller, who turned 30 last Friday, following a long huddle in the team’s locker room.
Aljun Melecio put up 20 points, while skipper Jeron Teng chipped in 14 more. RK Ilagan and Maverick Ahanmisi each finished with 11 points, but without Miller, the FiberXers managed to only come close at 54-51 early into the third quarter.
Even if Converge’s terrific run had ended, Ayo is far from worried—even if it costs them a chance at securing twice-to-beat protection with Bay Area and Barangay Ginebra picking up steam late in the tournament.
“We are more concerned with our future games than our game today,” he said as his crew dropped to 8-3 overall.
“There are things that we cannot control,” Ayo went on. “The worst finish for us is No. 4. We’ll be fine with that, as long as we fix our culture and preparations. And our future games, too.”
Both NorthPort and Converge wrap their elimination phase against crowd darling Barangay Ginebra, which is playing TNT as of writing. INQ
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