By Jonas Terrado
NorthPort overcame Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 98-96 Sunday night to clinch a quarterfinals berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Michael Qualls produced 30 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks while Christian Standhardinger scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth to give the Batang Pier a 5-6 record and a quarters berth at the end of the eliminations.
The Batang Pier had to weather a late Ginebra fightback to avoid an early exit in the season-ending conference.
A loss would have ended coach Pido Jarencio and NorthPort’s season due to an inferior quotient.
The result meant an early exit for Rain or Shine, which earlier in the day stunned Meralco 83-81.
NorthPort’s entry meant that the last quarters berth will be disputed by Alaska and Columbian.
Alaska, with a 4-6 record, needs a win over NLEX on Wednesday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City to make the quarters. Otherwise, the Aces will take on the 4-7 Dyip in a playoff on Friday.
Justin Brownlee fired 31 points while Stanley Pringle faced his former team for the first time and scored 18 points.
But Ginebra ended the elims at 7-4, though already assured of the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters.
Ginebra will finish either third or fourth depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s match between TNT KaTropa and San Miguel Beer.
NorthPort led 93-87 on Paolo Taha’s layup with 4:37 remaining in the fourth but Ginebra answered with five straight points to trim the gap to a single point.
Taha and Standhardinger scored back-to-back baskets to make it 97-92, only for Brownlee and LA Tenorio to make back-to-back jumpers to put Ginebra behind 97-96 with 1:35 remaining in the period.
Three empty possessions by both teams gave Ginebra a chance to win in the end but Brownlee missed a contested jumper, Japeth Aguilar missed a tip and Taha was fouled, splitting two freebies for 98-96 with 0.8 to go.
Jeff Chan’s long three at the horn went nowhere, prompting the Batang Pier their playoff entry the hard way.
NORTHPORT 98 – Qualls 30, Anthony 18, Standhardinger 17, Ferrer 11, Taha 7, Cruz 6, Lanete 5, Mercado 2, Elorde 2, King 0.
GINEBRA 96 – Brownlee 31, Pringle 18, Tenorio 15, Aguilar 14, Thompson 7, Chan 4, Dela Cruz 4, Devance 3, Mariano 0, Caperal 0.
Quarters: 20-29; 51-52; 75-73; 98-96.