MANILA - (UPDATED) Import Michael Qualls was unstoppable, and the NorthPort Batang Pier rode a hot start to secure a 115-90 demolition of top-seeded NLEX in the quarterfinals of the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup, Monday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Batang Pier's impressive win allowed them to force a deciding game for a spot in the semifinals on Wednesday, still at the Big Dome.
Qualls put up 39 points on 13-of-28 shooting, along with 16 rebounds and 5 assists. Christian Standhardinger did his part with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 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?" he added.
It was a potentially costly loss for the Road Warriors.
Not only will they be forced to play a do-or-die game, but they also risk losing Poy Erram and Paul Varilla after the two players were ejected in the fourth quarter for flagrant fouls.
NorthPort had started out hot, with Qualls scoring 22 points in the first half to fuel them to a 61-40 advantage. They maintained a double-digit lead for most of the way, but NLEX began to work its way back in the fourth quarter.
The Road Warriors were down by just 14 points with still 5:18 left after a JR Quinahan layup, when tempers flared for both squads.
Varilla fouled Qualls on a drive, and fell on his back below the hoop. The NorthPort's import momentum carried him into Varilla, and he stepped on the NLEX player's stomach in an attempt to break his fall.
Erram waded into the fray when he hit Qualls with an elbow to the back of the neck, and the situation escalated from there. Qualls had to be dragged to their bench while Erram also had to be calmed down. Standhardinger fell to the floor, an apparent victim of a Varilla elbow as well.
Both Erram and Varilla were tossed from the game after incurring flagrant fouls. Qualls and Standhardinger combined to make five of six free throws, and NorthPort retained possession. The fireworks were not quite done, however, as Philip Paniamogan also got called for a flagrant foul after catching Standhardinger with an elbow to the gut.
The Fil-German big man made both free throws, and in the bonus possession, he converted a bucket off an assist by Qualls. When the dust settled, the Batang Pier had taken control of the game again, 104-81; they would cruise to victory from there.
"Alam mo part ng game 'yan eh. Basta, importante lang, kung ano 'yung nakita ng Commissioner's Office, eh di i-penalize. Basta kami ready kami, kahit ano," Jarencio said of the late game fracas.
"Basta, sinabi ko lang sa mga players, be ready sa playoff mode. 'Di ba? Iba 'yan, may physicality, may mga non-calls, pero we're ready. Ready kami," he added.
Sean Anthony contributed 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals; NorthPort shot 43.3% from the field, including 13-of-38 from beyond the arc. They also had a massive 62-49 edge in rebounding, and their 24 offensive rebounds led to 26 second chance points.
Manny Harris was limited to just 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Qunahan led NLEX with 20 points, while Kiefer Ravena had 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
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.