by Jonas Terrado
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Alaska vs NorthPort
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco
NorthPort finally ended a string of misfortunes with a surprise rout of fancied TNT KaTropa, 109-83, to revive its quarterfinal hopes in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Stanley Pringle had 27 points and nine rebounds while sophomore big man Lervin Flores provided an unexpected lift with 11 points as the Batang Pier improved to 3-6 after snapping a six-game skid.
The victory not only kept the chances of NorthPort in the top eight but it also handed Rain or Shine the second twice-to-beat advantage with TNT’s loss.
Rain or Shine, which ended the eliminations with an 8-3 record, clinched the quarterfinal bonus even if it ends up sharing the same win-loss card with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel due to a winner-over-the-other-rule.
The Elasto Painters beat Ginebra, 83-80, last Jan. 26 in Calasiao, Pangasinan.
TNT ended the elims at 7-4 after seeing its five-game winning streak snapped.
The Batang Pier snapped a skid filled with heartbreaking losses, including blown leads against Phoenix Pulse, Meralco and Magnolia.
“Our past five or six games ended with bad breaks,” said NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio. “But in this game, it was like we played a perfect game.”
NorthPort needs to win its remaining two games to possibly secure a quarters berth.
Up next for the Batang Pier are games against the Alaska Aces on Wednesday and Ginebra on April 3.
NorthPort started hot to take a 53-31 halftime lead, then prevented TNT from making a serious comeback to produce its first win since defeating NLEX, 95-90, last Jan. 20.
Don Trollano produced 15 points and seven rebounds for the KaTropa, who will be relegated in a best-of-three series.
In the second game, San Miguel Beer broke loose in the second half to defeat Alaska, 114-96, to assure itself a place in the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Alex Cabagnot fired 31 points, Christian Standhardinger returned from a five-game absence due to a knee injury with 23 points as the Beermen ended their elimination round campaign with a 7-4 record.
“We don’t want to end the eliminations on a losing note and this game could give us a lot of confidence going into the quarters,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
The Beermen could end up facing either Barangay Ginebra San Miguel or TNT KaTropa in the quarterfinals which starts in early-April, a difficult task for a team seeking an unprecedented fifth straight Philippine Cup title.
San Miguel won missing Terrence Romeo, who suffered from dehydration against Phoenix.
Chris Banchero produced 22 points, four rebounds and five assists but the Aces dropped to 4-6 for a share of seventh with the NLEX Road Warriors.
Alaska has lost four of its last five outings.