Arvin Tolentino —PBA IMAGES

Arvin Tolentino’s game-winning jumper not only ended NorthPort’s five-game losing streak, it also prevented his team from potential elimination in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup.

His shot with 7.6 seconds left allowed the Batang Pier to come away with a thrilling 115-113 victory over the Blackwater Bossing in Caloocan City and finish the elimination phase of the all-Filipino tournament at 5-6 (win-loss).

It’s a huge sigh of relief for NorthPort, which blew an 18-point half-time lead and trailed by two entering the dying seconds. Had Blackwater preserved its lead till the end, NorthPort may eventually lay out early vacation plans.

NorthPort climbed to eighth place in the standings, pushing one team into the quarters and ousting another from contention.

Barangay Ginebra became the second team to qualify for the quarterfinals with NorthPort’s triumph. It later beat Converge, 105-93, in the other game held in Cagayan de Oro City.

Phoenix will miss the playoffs with its 3-7 card and a game to spare since eight teams already have at least five wins, NorthPort included.

NLEX and Magnolia are tied at 5-3 heading into their respective games Sunday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. NLEX battles unbeaten San Miguel Beer, which owns a perfect eight-win record, at 6:15 p.m.

Outside chance

Magnolia is looking to bounce back from a 98-91 loss to San Miguel last Friday in the 3 p.m. opener against Meralco.

TNT holds a 5-4 record while Rain or Shine and Terrafirma carry identical 5-5 slates.

Meralco sits in ninth place at 4-5 while Blackwater is 10th with 3-6 after dropping its sixth consecutive game.

Tolentino finished with 27 points to save NorthPort from collapse against a Blackwater side that rallied behind a season-high 33 from Troy Rosario.

Key performances from Joshua Munzon and rookies Damie Cuntapay, Zavier Lucero and Fran Yu also put NorthPort in a position to play the waiting game instead of praying desperately for teams to slip up.

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NorthPort still has an outside chance of qualifying directly to the quarterfinals or, at the very least, earn a knockout game for the last playoffs berth.



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NorthPort’s eventual fate will be known once the remaining five doubleheaders are completed.



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