NORTHPORT may have lost its biggest star, but remains ready to continue waging war.
Coach Pido Jarencio even shut out news of Stanley Pringle being traded to Barangay Ginebra and instead kept his focus on his Batang Pier's collision with Rain or Shine Wednesday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
For good reason. Each of the protagonists is gunning for a third straight win with NorthPort also looking to join idle TNT at the top of the standings.
But first, the Batang Pier must hurdle an Elasto Painters crew aiming to complete its rise from a 0-2 start and catch the Gin Kings at fifth.
Both teams' coaches know the stakes and what his side must do.
"Rain or Shine is a strong team and with (Denzel) Bowles getting his rhythm they are hard to beat," said Jarencio.
"We must play with intensity and consistency throughout the game."
"It's gonna be a tough game for us, seeing how NorthPort has been playing," countered E-Painters coach Caloy Garcia.
"They look like the best team right now. We have to find ways to stop their transition game and control the boards. We also have to lessen our turnovers."
The odds should tilt to Rain or Shine's side.
Nico Elorde is also a game time decision for the Batang Pier after suffering a strained hamstring in the course of a 102-99 win against Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok last Independence Day.
Jonathan Grey is also questionable due to a sprain.
Rain or Shine also has a doubtful player in James Yap, who suffered a groin pull in an 89-82 win over Phoenix Pulse 10 days ago.
Still, the E-Painters have other weapons led by Rey Nambatac, Javee Mocon and, of course, Bowles.
Bowles churned out a vintage performance in the win over the Fuel Masters, notching 28 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
Still, NorthPort has seemingly learned to play without Pringle, who has missed four games and has a 1-1 record in the two games he saw action in.
With rookie Robert Bolick proving to be a gem of a find, Sean Anthony steadily delivering his usual all-around performances, Prince Ibeh a pillar of strength and the likes of Mo Tautuaa and Paolo Taha also raising many eyebrows, expect the Batang Pier to draw the E-Painters into a grind-out affair. (NC)