By JONAS TERRADO
Robert Bolick feels NorthPort has the talent and experience to beat San Miguel Beer in their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal showdown that has plenty of subplots.
The Batang Pier have an ax to grind against the Beermen after squandering a twice-to-beat advantage during their previous quarterfinal meeting back in the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup.
But with players like Greg Slaughter, Kevin Ferrer and Paolo Taha who have enjoyed championships back when they were with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and carrying the lessons from their playoff defeat to SMB, Bolick sees plenty of reasons they can prevail this time.
“At least natutunan namin kung panu yung laro pag quarters, pag playoff time na,” Bolick said after triple-double propelled NorthPort to a 122-94 rout of Alaska to close out the eliminations Thursday, Sept. 23.
“At ngayon, madaming players dito na nakapag-champion na din sa amin e, sila Greg, sila Kevin. Siguro yung youth namin advantage din sa amin versus yung grabeng experience nila kasi ang dami nilang championship nung hindi lang yun team na yun, pati yung mga players din. So it will be a good matchup for us,” he added.
NorthPort came up short against SMB two years ago despite finishing No. 2 and holding the twice-to-beat incentive.
The Batang Pier fell 98-84 in the first game before bowing 90-88 in an exciting knockout match that left Bolick emotional after the rookie guard tried to make clutch plays in the dying moments.
Two years later that included a lengthy absence due to ACL injury and a global pandemic, Bolick has emerged as one of the league’s brightest stars as evident with his 22-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist showing against Alaska.
The win gave NorthPort the No. 5 seed and a best-of-three with the fourth-ranked SMB in a series that could equal their 2019 meeting. Slaughter will take on old rival June Mar Fajardo which Bolick has witnessed first hand when the two collegiate stars from Cebu faced off when University of the Visayas and University of Cebu played a game in Ormoc.
“I used to watch Greg and June Mar play sa dome (Ormoc Superdome) namin, sa UC tsaka UV,” said Bolick. “Bata pa ako, nanonood na ako sa kanila. And how ironic diba, si Greg nakasama ko na, tapos si June Mar, makakalaban ko ulit, tapos playoff pa din ba. So napakasarap ng feeling.”
He’ll face his own rival in SMB’s CJ Perez, the former Lyceum Pirates star he beat twice for the 2017 and 2018 NCAA championship as the take-charge guy of the San Beda Red Lions.
“It’s gonna be a good matchup at sana pabor pa rin sa akin. Sana ako pa rin ang manalo.,” he said. “Gagawin namin yung best namin talaga. Naghirap kami rito.”