NorthPort's will live to fight another day.
A fiery first-half start propelled the No. 8 Batang Pier to a resounding 115-90 upset of top seed NLEX to force a deciding game in a heated and highly-physical quarterfinal tussle in the 2019 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Monday night.
Michael Qualls came up big for NorthPort, posting huge numbers with game-highs of 39 points, 16 rebounds and five assists for a double-double.
Christian Standhardinger was likewise impressive, tallying 24 points and 13 boards for his own double-double.
The two protagonists are now set to meet in a deciding knockout game tomorrow to see who advances to the best-of-five semifinals.
No. 4-ranked Barangay Ginebra, who already advanced, is waiting in the wings.
Facing a twice-to-win disadvantage, NorthPort showed up armed with all the weapons to make sure its season will not end just yet.
Showing the requisite urgency it needs to stay alive, the Batang Pier raced to an early 12-point lead, 34-22, in the closing minute of the opening quarter.
With its burly start, NorthPort caught NLEX flat-footed as the latter was unable to get it going in the first half.
The Batang Pier pounced on the Road Warriors heavier in the second frame, stretching its lead further to a gigantic 23-point cushion, 61-38, after two free throws from Qualls with 35 seconds left before halftime.
Apparently, the outcome was already decided at that point.
Tempers flared with 4:54 left after Poy Erram and Paul Varilla both got ejected after getting called for consecutive flagrant foul 2 after a commotion with Qualls and Standhardinger.
Both Road Warriors were seen throwing elbows to Qualls and Standhardinger, causing their disqualification.
In the second half, NorthPort’s lead apexed to 26 points, 79-53, midway of the third and it led by more than 20 points for most part of the one-sided affair.
JR Quinahan led NLEX with a team-high 20 points.