Heroes were aplenty in crunch time as the new-look NorthPort escaped Phoenix Super LPG, 92-89, for a triumphant start to the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Robert Bolick nailed the go-ahead triple with exactly 12 seconds left, capping off the Batang Pier’s finishing 11-2 rally to complete their comeback from a slow start that saw them trail by 19 points in the opening period.
The star guard simply punctuated the killer run powered by Roi Sumang, who manufactured eight points in that blitz — he made five straight to follow up Arvin Tolentino’s triple, and then dished the assist that led to Bolick’s trey.
“A win is a win. We’re struggling the whole game,” said coach Pido Jarencio. “Defensively, offensively, hindi namin makuha, tapos ‘yung rotation namin, ‘yung combination ng mga players.
“Ang maganda lang is ‘yung puso, nandoon. ‘Yung will to win, nandoon, and then players executing in the end, tapos si Mr. Clutch, Robert Bolick, making that last three-point shot, that winning shot,” he added.
Bolick led the way with 21 points and six assists in the win that gave Tolentino and other former Ginebra Kings in Jeff Chan, Prince Caperal, and Kent Salado a fitting welcome since arriving via trade Tuesday.
“Buti na lang, andiyan ‘yung mga teammates ko. Ang gagaling ng mga players — si Roi, lahat nag-step up eh. Si Arvin, bago pa lang pero grabe ‘yung binigay sa team namin,” Bolick said. “Sana, ako ‘yung leader ng team, kailangan mas malaki ‘yung boses ko sa team, na i-welcome ko sila.”
Tolentino immediately made his presence felt with 16 points, on top of six rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and four blocks in an all-around outing. Sumang supplied 15 points, alongside four boards, three dimes, and a steal
“We have four new guys in the team, nagkakapaan pa. Pero may magandang mangyayari kasi makakatulong ‘yung mga dumating,” said Jarencio as the team is now moving on from losing Jamie Malonzo in the three-team deal.
Returning import Prince Ibeh tallied 19 points and 15 rebounds, though he wasn’t able to finish the game as he fouled out with 1:22 left. Arwind Santos chimed in a double-double of his own with 10 markers and 12 boards.
NorthPort will look to make it two in a row on Saturday at the same venue, but it surely won’t be easy as it’s up against Bay Area, who began its campaign with a dominant 133-87 victory over Blackwater to open the conference.
Phoenix, meanwhile, was led by the 24 points and 13 rebounds of Javee Mocon in a rough start to its post-Matthew Wright era as the franchise’s former star has joined the long list of Filipinos that took their talents abroad.
Import Kaleb Wesson had 14 points and 15 rebounds, while rookies Encho Serrano and Tyler Tio added 10 for the Fuel Masters, who did not have head coach Topex Robinson as he got placed under the health and safety protocols.
Phoenix actually started with its guns ablaze and led 26-7 in the first quarter, but failed to maintain the big lead as NorthPort turned to its zone defense to chip away the deficit and, eventually, steal the three-point victory.
The Fuel Masters will look to cop win no. 1 against another hungry team in the Bossing also on Saturday.
NorthPort 92 – Bolick 21, Ibeh 19, Tolentino 16, Sumang 15, Santos 10, Balanza 6, Ferrer 3, Salado 2, Dela Cruz 0, Chan 0, Calma 0, Taha 0.
Phoenix Super LPG 89 – Mocon 24, Wesson 14, Serrano 10, Tio 10, Jazul 7, Camacho 7, Muyang 6, Lalata 4, Garcia 4, Rios 3, Lojera 0, Adamos 0, Robles 0.
Quarterscores: 12-28, 37-37, 61-65, 92-89.
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.