The NorthPort Batang Pier must be breathing a sigh of relief after clinching their breakthrough victory over the TerraFirma Dyip.
In their 115-100 win over the Dyip, the Batang Pier led from start to finish, and much of that was because of the efforts of Kevin Murphy, who led all scorers with 28 points. Although none of his fellow starters finished in double-figures, the bench trio of Robert Bolick, Joshua Munzon, and rookie JM Calma combined for 61 points on 58.8 percent shooting in support of Murphy.
While a win is a win, it doesn’t mask the problems that have doomed NorthPort for much of the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup. Even with the victory, the numbers continue to point to what has been a dismal conference to say the least for the Batang Pier. Despite being in the middle of the pack offensively, much of their offense has come off individual play rather than off assists. The 16.3 assists NorthPort currently averages is the lowest in the PBA and it’s evident that they’ve had to work for every point. Things will come much easier for the Batang Pier if they move the ball around.
Bolick’s return certainly helps, as he can create in transition and help keep the ball moving in the halfcourt for NorthPort. Two games in, the former Green Archer has already shown how he can be doubly dangerous as a scorer and a playmaker and the Batang Pier would be wise to make the most out of it.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Batang Pier have struggled with rebounding, as their 27.9 defensive rebounds per game and 38.7 total rebounds per game are the worst and second-worst marks in the league, respectively. Two of NorthPort’s six losses thus far have come in single digits, so it’s reasonable to believe that the lack of stops and the extra possessions opponents gain have made the deficits harder to overcome.
Part of that comes from the Batang Pier being down a few players, but with Bolick and Arwind Santos back on the court, things could get better. Winning the rebounding battle all the time may be too much of an ask, but keeping things close should help keep NorthPort competitive.
Complicating matters moving forward, though, is the status of Bolick. The 2023 PBA All-Star sat out five games reportedly due to a hamstring injury that also coincided with a contract stalemate with the Batang Pier that eventually ended with a signed contract extension that will expire after the Governors’ Cup. Rumors of a potential move overseas have circulated and it would be unfortunate for NorthPort to lose Bolick after trading away Jamie Malonzo to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
A team built on Bolick and Malonzo would have obviously been an exciting team to watch, but the Batang Pier have unfortunately become a roster of moving parts, making it difficult to really build any consistency. Bolick being off the roster next season means Munzon and Arvin Tolentino would be the de facto franchise players and the hope is that NorthPort would build around both talented wings. How the Batang Pier will navigate through free agency should provide some indications but perhaps time will tell how things will work out.
After all, Bonnie Tan is in his first season as NorthPort’s head coach and a proper offseason should give the Batang Pier more time to acclimate themselves to his system. Thrust into his role after a coaching shuffle that saw Tan move from the NCAA’s Letran Knights to NorthPort and Pido Jarencio return to the UST Growling Tigers, it’s fair to think that part of what the Batang Pier are doing has been on the fly.
Wins have been quite hard to come by for the NorthPort Batang Pier but now that they’ve finally had a taste of victory, the hope is that it presents a turning point for the franchise. This does, however, come against the backdrop of uncertainty now and even beyond that. It’s been said that winning cures everything but can the same be said for this version of the Batang Pier?