|NorthPort import Michael Qualls was a man on a mission in his team's win over NLEX. PBA Media Bureau|
MANILA—NorthPort continued its hot form as of late as it smothered top-ranker NLEX, 115-90, to set a do-or-die game in Monday quarterfinals of the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
With import Michael Qualls running berserk, the Batang Pier sizzled right from opening tip to negate the Road Warriors’ twice-to-beat edge and force a winner-take-all game on Wednesday.
NorthPort had a dream start behind Qualls’ 20 first-half points for a 61-40 cushion at the break. The lead then went to as high as 26 points late in the third quarter.
NLEX then fired a spirited rally, cutting the deficit to 14, 81-95, on a JR Quiñahan bucket in the 5:18 mark of the game.
The game however took an ugly turn after NLEX’s Poy Erram and Paul Varilla were both slapped with flagrant fouls and ejected after figuring in a near free-for-all with less than five minutes left in the game. Qualls unintentionally stepped on Varilla’s stomach after a foul, prompting Erram to hit Qualls with an elbow to the back of the head.
Qualls and Christian Standhardinger then scored nine consecutive points for a 104-81 bubble and held on from there.
Qualls finished with 39 points on 13-of-28 along with 16 rebounds and five assists, while Standhardinger issued 24 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.
"We just came out strong, aggressive, full of energy. ‘Yun lang. Ayaw magbakasyon ng mga players. They want to be in the playoffs, sa semis," said NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio.
"Wala pa, hindi pa naman tapos eh. First half pa lang. Yung second half, sa Wednesday, okay?"
Quiñahan scored 20 points for NLEX, which just got 12 markers from import Manny Harris. Kiefer Ravena added 16 and six boards.
NorthPort 115 – Qualls 39, Standhardinger 24, Anthony 12, Ferrer 9, King 8, Escoto 5, Taha 5, Elorde 5, Lanete 3, Cruz 3, Mercado 2.
NLEX 90 – Quinahan 20, Ravena 16, Harris 12, Cruz 11, Erram 6, Soyud 6, Alas 5, Paniamogan 4, Varilla 3, Galanza 3, Ighalo 2, Miranda 2, Fonacier 0.
Quarterscores: 34-24, 61-40, 83-64, 115-90.