Reversal of roles.
That is seemingly the case for NLEX and NorthPort, with the eighth-ranked Batang Pier now looming as the favorites as they tangle with the suddenly depleted and embattled Road Warriors side in a knockout setto to determine the team that will complete the PBA Governors' Cup Final Four cast.
The lone match is set at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the two teams fighting their seasons, their lives and a slot in the semifinals with Meralco, TNT KaTropa and Barangay Ginebra.
The Road Warriors were the best team in the eliminations but are now facing a tough challenge as they go through a do-or-die game minus ace center Poy Erram and reserve Paul Varilla who both serve a game-suspension for their flagrant infractions on NorthPort import Michael Qualls in their initial quarters tiff Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Qualls and Christian Standhardinger combined for 63 points and 29 rebounds as the Batang Pier once again played a big game versus the Road Warriors, fashioning out a lopsided 115-90 win in a follow-up to a 102-94 victory in their elims faceoff.
The outcome of the game looked beyond recall when a skirmish erupted leading to the ejection of Erram and Varilla.
Going with the suspension were the heavy fines Erram (P50,000) and Varilla (P40,000) incurred for their unsportsmanlike conducts.
Also fined in the aftermath of the heated match were Standhardinger (P5,000 for a flagrant foul penalty one on Kiefer Ravena upon review) and Road Warriors' Philip Paniamogan (P5,000 for FPP1 on Standhardinger) and Ravena (P1,000 for technical foul for second motion against Standhardinger).
And suddenly, the odds are stacked against NLEX's side.
"We need to get back our intensity. From the start (Monday) we are 'out-energized'; they have more intensity from the very beginning and we couldn't match that," said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao.
"Maybe it's also the frustrations setting in because when we trail by a big margin early, we get frustrated and get off our usual game, our game plan. It's still a maturity problem we need to be a little bit more mature in the big games, the important games and control our frustrations and get back to what we usually do," Guiao also said.
NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio, meanwhile, cautions his chargers not to lose their focus.
"Nothing to celebrate yet. That was just the first half, we still have to play the other half on Wednesday. Our team's goal is to be in the semifinals," said Jarencio. (SB)