MANILA, Philippines–The PBA is back to allowing fans to come in full force on Wednesday, and NorthPort is close to being the same with Robert Bolick returning to add another reliable gun and help the Batang Pier in their late push for a playoff berth in the Governors’ Cup.
Live attendance will return to 100-percent capacity at Smart Araneta Coliseum with health protocols relaxed, and the Batang Pier won’t waver one bit with Bolick back in harness and the stakes getting higher by the game as the elimination round enters its final two weeks.
NorthPort battles winless Blackwater in the 3 p.m. contest before Magnolia and Meralco slug it out at 6 p.m. potentially for No. 1 ranking in the playoffs.
“That’s the opponent that’s hardest to play, those who have nothing to lose,” Jarencio told the Inquirer as he reiterated the need to keep the pedal to the metal even against a foe that has bowed out of contention for the fourth straight conference. “We respect every team we play, and Blackwater is no exception to that as far as we are concerned.”
The Bossing have the longest losing streak going on in league history (27 games) and are in danger of winding up winless for the second straight conference.
And Bolick coming back in sharp form after a tour of duty with the national team is added bad news for the Bossing, who will face a NorthPort side that has won its last three games—against stronger teams and without Bolick.
An upset of the Batang Pier will do nothing for the Bossing but uplift their pride somewhat, while it could also cost NorthPort that quarterfinal berth it now has a solid shot at despite starting 0-5.
And when asked if Bolick and another player, Kevin Ferrer returning from injury bay, could disrupt the cohesion his team has, Jarencio was quick to say: “They are pros and know the system well. They will come ready to play and their teammates ready to play with them.”
Meanwhile, no less than a seat in the top four is at stake in the Magnolia-Meralco clash, with the winner moving closer to No. 1—and the lightest possible assignment in the quarterfinals.
This will be a rematch of the Final Four series of the Philippine Cup the Hotshots won, 4-2, before Magnolia lost to TNT in the title series.
Magnolia has a 7-1 record and a victory in any of its final three matches would assure the Hotshots of a top four berth, and a twice-to-beat privilege, while going at 2-1 in closing out could mean top seeding and the right to face the No. 8 seed needing to win just once in the quarterfinals.
Momentum should be on Magnolia’s side, as it will be coming off a 104-87 demolition job of powerhouse San Miguel Beer and new import Shabazz Muhammad last Sunday.
Meralco, on the other hand, will come into the game still licking the wounds of a 94-93 heartbreaker to Alaska that dropped the Bolts out of a share of the lead.
Fans will be allowed to come in droves once again after alert level 1 was imposed on the National Capital Region starting on Tuesday.
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