MANILA, Philippines -- NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio chalked up their win over Phoenix Super LPG on Wednesday night to the heart and fighting spirit of his players.
By his own admission, the Batang Pier were "struggling" all throughout their first game of the 2022 PBA Commissioner's Cup against the Fuel Masters. NorthPort got off to a slow start and at one point, fell behind by 19 points.
But they recovered in the second quarter, using their zone defense to limit the Fuel Masters to just nine points. It was a nip-and-tuck affair from there, before Robert Bolick capped the NorthPort comeback by sinking the go-ahead three-pointer with just 14 seconds left.
"For me, a win is a win. We're struggling the whole game. Defensively, offensively, hindi namin makuha," said Jarencio after their 92-89 triumph. "Ang maganda lang is 'yung puso, nandoon. 'Yung will to win, nandoon, and then players executed in the end."
"Tapos si Mr. Clutch, Robert Bolick, making that last three-point shot, that winning shot," he added.
Jarencio admitted that his team's chemistry was not yet there. The Batang Pier added four new players to their rotation -- Arvin Tolentino, Jeff Chan, Kent Salado and Prince Caperal -- after two trades with San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra just days before the start of the conference.
Of the newcomers, it was Tolentino who shone brightest as he tallied 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals in an all-around performance.
"We have four, five new guys in the team, tapos medyo nagkakapaan pa. Pero, may magandang mangyayari, kasi makakatulong naman 'yung mga dumating," said Jarencio.
"And then Robert, steady lang na tumutulong sa team. For me, it's a total team effort, pero ang sama. Sama ng umpisa namin," he added. "'Yung mga player, ano naman eh, hindi tumigil na mag-trabaho ng husto."
Jarencio is hoping that their winning start to the conference bodes well for his team, as they try to bounce back from a poor performance in the All-Filipino Cup. NorthPort went 3-8 in the previous conference, missing the playoffs.
Consistency, the coach said, will be crucial for them.
"Sana buong season maging consistent kami," he said. "Kulang talaga kami. Kulang sa practice, kulang sa tune-up, ganyan. Nag-tune up kami, dalawang beses lang yata, isang beses."
"Pero okay naman. A win is a win, 'yun lang 'yun. At least pagdating doon sa scoreboard, 1-0 ang NorthPort, 'di ba?" he added.
Up next for NorthPort are the Bay Area Dragons on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.