NORTHPORT rode on the career game of rookie William Navarro to bring down an all-Filipino Converge crew, 112-97, and prop up its drive for the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Navarro fired 16 in a fiery performance coming off the halftime break as NorthPort broke out of a 52-49 count and grabbed an 88-73 tear.
Navarro dished out new highs of 29 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists and spearheaded the third-quarter breakaway that set the tone for the crucial win at the expense of the Quincy Miller-less FiberXers.
NorthPort stretched its streak to three games and kept its hold of fifth spot at 6-5 overall, doing so while stopping the seven-game roll of Converge, which fell to 8-3.
The FiberXers decided to bench Miller after he missed team practice following a night of celebration for his 30th birthday recently.
"We're expecting na full force sila but eventually yung import nila, hindi naglaro. Naging favorable for us. But with or without import, ready kami," said NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio.
Equally important in the whole scheme of things were the solid outings of Robert Bolick, who rifled in 26 with 10 dimes and six boards, and Prince Ibeh, who banged in 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks with an American counterpart on the other side.
Arvin Tolentino (15) and Roi Sumang (nine) also delivered in complementary roles.
"It was a total team effort. Everybody was focused on defense and on offense, they shared the ball. Yun talaga ang game plan. Na-execute namin and we got the win. Now we have three in a row and we have a chance to make the playoffs," said Jarencio.
Aljun Melecio (20) and Jeron Teng (14) took scoring cudgels for Converge without Miller, who averaged 30.7 points, 16.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3 blocks prior to this team-enforced sitout.
"Kasama si Miller sa scouting report namin. Eventually hindi naglaro kahit naka-uniform. But still, Converge is a fighting team. Lumalaban talaga sila up to the last minute kaya hindi pwedeng mag-relax," said Jarencio.
Derailed from their winning ways, the FiberXers got stuck at No. 3, trailing Bay Area (9-2) and Magnolia (8-2) in the race for the coveted Top 2 seeding and twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs. (OL)
NorthPort 112 - Navarro 29, Bolick 26, Ibeh 19, Tolentino 15, Sumang 9, Balanza 7, Ferrer 4, Ayaay 2, Chan 1, Caperal 0, Calma 0.
Converge 97 - Melecio 10, Teng 14, Ahanmisi 11, Ilagan 11, Tratter 9, Stockton 8, Arana 8, Browne 6, Racal 6, DiGregorio 2, Bulanadi 2, Ambohot 0.
Quarters: 28-18, 52-49, 88-73, 112-97