Being a relatively young team heading into the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs, NorthPort needed to do get into the right mindset starting with their last game of the elimination round against Alaska.
They did that, and more, as without veterans Sean Anthony and Greg Slaughter, Robert Bolick and second overall pick Jamie Malonzo picked up the slack, earning their wings in a dominant 122-94 victory versus the Aces on Thursday evening inside the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
"[Developing a mentality] started with this game. This is our start in building a winning culture for this team," said head coach Pido Jarencio, as the fifth-seeded Batang Pier (6-5) now head to a a best-of-three quarterfinals matchup opposite fourth seed San Miguel (7-4).
"Against the mighty San Miguel team, we're prepared, we're ready. The players are ready. We are healthy going to the playoffs," he added.
In the big victory, Bolick wielded all of his powers and logged a triple-double of 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists, while Malonzo added 21 markers and six boards.
"Our mentality coming in, just like what coach said, we're building a winning culture. Whoever we face, then that's it," opined Bolick.
"We know San Miguel has a winning tradition, but of course, we won't back down, and we're ready. As long as we're healthy, we're going to give our best, and we'll live with the results," said Bolick of the 4-versus-5 matchup beginning next week.
NorthPort closed the final 6:13 of the first with a 19-10 run, emerging with a 28-20 lead at the conclusion of the quarter. Malonzo's layup in the second period then gave the Batang Pier their biggest lead of the first half, 56-38.
Bolick swished one near the venue's logo to stretch their edge to 25, 87-62, with 4:12 to go in the fourth. The Aces were able to slice the lead to 78-94, only to be buried in a 29-point hole the rest of the way.
The Batang Pier's win also salvaged defending champion Barangay Ginebra's title defense, as the Gin Kings will now have a playoff for the eighth spot against Phoenix Super LPG on Saturday. The winner will advance to face top seed TNT Tropang Giga, who hold a twice-to-beat advantage.
The game's result also officially ousted theTerrafirma Dyip, whose playoff hopes hinged on a NorthPort loss.
Like Terrafirma, Alaska will not be moving on after finishing with a 3-8 record and an 11th-place standing, as they ended their campaign with a four-game skid. Jeron Teng dropped 18 points and six rebounds to front their effort.
NORTHPORT (122) -- Bolick 22, Malonzo 21, Taha 18, Onwubere 13, Rike 12, Ferrer 7, Doliguez 7, Balanza 6, Subido 5, Elorde 5, Grey 4, Faundo 2, Lanete 0.
ALASKA (94) -- Teng 18, Tratter 13, Digregorio 13, Adamos 10, Casio 9, Banal 7, Brondial 5, Browne 5, Stockton 4, Marcelino 4, Ilagan 3, Ebona 3, Publico 0.
Quarter Scores: 28-20, 61-43, 94-78, 122-94.
- NorthPort got a big boost from its reserves as the bench pumped in 54 points against Alaska's 36.
- San Miguel (4) vs. NorthPort (5) in the quarterfinals; schedule to be determined next week