Days removed after their worst offensive performance in franchise history, the NorthPort Batang Pier bounced back big-time on Wednesday by blasting the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters by 36 points, 115-79, inside the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, to register their first win of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
Greg Slaughter (coaches' decision) and Sean Anthony (ankle injury) did not dress, but that did not hinder the Batang Pier from claiming the wire-to-wire victory following a season-opening loss.
Head coach Pido Jarencio shared in the post-game press conference that he bore the brunt of blame after they only mustered a franchise-low 63 points on 21% shooting against the Meralco Bolts last Friday.
"We just fixed one thing: defense. I said we must fix our defense," shared Jarencio in Filipino. "We set our rules on defense, and then I told them that (after) defense, our offense will soon follow."
The fiery mentor's words rang true when NorthPort stymied the usually potent Phoenix offense to just 32% shooting. Afterwards, the offense did come through as they shot exactly 50% from the field and hit 17 three-pointers.
The Batang Pier led from start to finish, but were locked in a tight contest after the first frame. Just up by four, 22-18, Kevin Ferrer and Troy Rike then led a 17-2 run to start the second quarter to blow the game wide open, 39-20.
The Fuel Masters tried to stem the bleeding by trimming the gap to 14, 31-45, after a layup by Aljun Melecio, but Ferrer uncorked five straight points to give his side a 50-31 edge at intermission.
Robert Bolick, just in his second game following recovery from a partial ACL tear, flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds.
"Obviously, I'm a point guard. I wasn't in the bubble, our team labored, and coach gave me the opportunity to recover for a long time," said the former San Beda stalwart in Filipino.
"So I think this is just paying back. I took care of myself, got into the right condition so that when the season comes, I could give something they didn't have inside the bubble," he added.
Jarencio also credited rookies Troy Rike and Jamie Malonzo for helping with the big win.
"Actually, I expect Troy and Jamie to really step up. That's why I snagged them in the draft because I know they will help the cause," recalled Jarencio.
Rike, who had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Malonzo, who posted 15 markers and eight boards, were the first pair of rookies to score in double-digits in the young season. Ferrer wound up with 20 points of his own, 13 coming in the first half.
New-look Phoenix, meanwhile, remained winless even after being led by Vic Manuel's 26 markers. Matthew Wright added 15 markers on 4/15 shooting as they fell to 0-2 for the first time in an All-Filipino conference.
NORTHPORT (115) - Bolick 20, Rike 20, Ferrer 20, Onwubere 15, Malonzo 15, Taha 12, Elorde 6, Faundo 4, Balanza 3, Subido 0, Doliguez 0, Grey 0.
PHOENIX (79) - Manuel 26, Wright 15, Perkins 12, Jazul 8, Garcia 6, Melecio 4, Demusis 2, Chua 2, Pascual 2, Rios 2, Faundo 0, Muyang 0, Calisaan 0, Napoles 0, Tamsi 0.
Quarter Scores: 22-18, 50-31, 79-51, 115-79.
- Slaughter begged off from playing in NorthPort's first two games as he believes he's still not in game shape, according to Jarencio.
- Anthony also did not dress due to an ankle injury. He and Slaughter are expected to play in NorthPort's next game.
- The Batang Pier's 17 threes is a conference-high, and the second-highest in franchise history.
NorthPort vs. San Miguel on Sunday, July 25, 2 p.m. at Ynares Sports Arena
Phoenix vs. Alaska on Saturday, July 24, 4:35 p.m. at Ynares Sports Arena