NLEX beat undermanned NorthPort, 109-95, on Friday to emerge as the No. 6 seed entering the quarterfinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors were hardly challenged in booking their second consecutive win at the expense of a Batang Pier side that missed key players Robert Bolick and Jamie Malonzo because of health protocols.
NLEX raced to a 28-16 cushion at the end of first period and controlled the next three quarters while posting their biggest advantage of 27 points at 103-76 at garbage time.
The Road Warriors closed out the elimination round with six wins against five losses.
“This assured us of a sixth place finish, similar to a third place finish. It’s all the same,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said, noting that the No. 6 team will be facing No. 3 team Magnolia or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a best-of-three quarterfinals duel.
“We just avoided to go down to seventh or eighth and face teams with a twice-to-beat advantage, that’s why we really worked hard to win this game,” Guiao added.
Power forward Raul Soyud missed only one of 10 attempts and finished with 19 points while Calvin Oftana tallied 18 points and Don Trollano 16 points for the Road Warriors, who made 17 three-pointers as against seven of Batang Pier.
Philip Paniamogan and Anthony Semerad had 15 points and while Justin Chua added nine points, nine rebounds and six assists for NLEX.
Guiao rested Kevin Alas and JR Quiñahan in preparation for the playoffs that start Sunday.
The Batang Pier, who ended their campaign with a 3-8 record, also played without Paolo Taha and Jervy Cruz because of injuries.
Rookie JM Calma led NorthPort with season-high 21 points with nine rebounds.