Arvin Tolentino (right) provides the fourth-quarter fuel for NorthPort. —PBA IMAGES

Coach Pido Jarencio insists that NorthPort remains a work in progress even after continuing its up and down trend going into a crucial schedule that could make or break the Batang Pier’s campaign in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

“‘Di pa kami consistent (We’re still not consistent),” Jarencio said after the Batang Pier came back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take an 87-83 victory over the Blackwater Bossing on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The result, produced primarily by Arvin Tolentino, import Prince Ibeh, Arwind Santos and Robert Bolick, enabled NorthPort to move up to 3-2 near the halfway mark of the eliminations while bouncing back from a 24-point mauling they got from TNT over the weekend.

NorthPort started the conference with a close-shave win over Phoenix, lost to visiting Bay Area on a buzzer-beating three, pulled off a stunning overtime triumph over Meralco behind Bolick’s 44-point explosion before falling to a big deficit at the onset against TNT.

Jarencio wouldn’t want to see NorthPort do the same going into the next two games with contender Magnolia set on Sunday also at the Big Dome and Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer on Oct. 26 at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Magnolia, which in the nightcap took down NLEX with a 111-97 victory to remain as the only unbeaten team in the midseason tournament at 4-0, will be the first in the order for NorthPort, which in 13 meetings has only beaten the Hotshots thrice.

Import Nick Rakocevic, despite being less than 100 percent healthwise, led the Hotshots with 36 points and 15 rebounds in less than 38 minutes as Magnolia pinned a second straight loss on the Road Warriors in their 2-2 record.

“We will be facing tough opponents, but we can’t hide from them. We just have to prepare ourselves against those teams,” said Jarencio.

Jarencio wants his team to play consistently on both ends, something he said was absent against Blackwater as NorthPort trailed for a total of 35 minutes before orchestrating a comeback when it mattered.

Tolentino dropped 10 of his 15 points in the fourth, Santos came through with a pair of jumpers inside the final six minutes that played a part in securing the win while Ibeh, known mostly for his defensive prowess, scored 19 to equal his highest scoring output since debuting for the Batang Pier in 2019.

“We played badly both on offense and defense,” Jarencio lamented. “I told them that we can’t play like that. Although we came up with a win, we have to play defense, and at the same time deliver on offense.”

“We still have a lot to improve on, and this game is a learning experience for us heading into our next games. Sometimes our unfamiliarity comes out [because of the new acquisitions], but I’m confident that we can be a solid team,” he added. INQ

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