Game Preview: Alab Pilipinas vs Westports Malaysia Dragons

The Westports Malaysia Dragons travel to the Philippines for the final time this season, as they take on Alab Pilipinas in ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) action.

Tipoff starts 8:00 PM at the Baliwag Star Arena in Baliuag, Bulacan.

The defending champions have been desperately looking for a spark to their season, as successive losses have begun to pile up. With a 2-9 record, they are in danger of missing the playoffs entirely, as they are at the bottom of the standings.

On the other hand, Alab Pilipinas is comfortably at third place with a 7-4 record. Though they’ve gotten some big victories, they’ve also struggled with consistency, as evidenced by their record of two wins and two losses in their previous four games. Grabbing a win against the Dragons would go a huge way in remedying that.

The Dragons will be led by their duo of talented imports, Kiwi Gardner and Joshua Munzon. In their previous game, a 96-87 loss to the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, Munzon paced the team with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Gardner tallied 18 points (6 of 17 shooting), 7 rebounds, and 9 assists but committing 11 turnovers. 

Gardner has only played two games thus far in the ABL since replacing Marcus Melvin, but he has shown the ability to attack in transition as well as in halfcourt sets. He looked fatigued in the loss to Hong Kong, admitting that he has yet to get his legs under him. A week’s rest and familiarity with his teammates should benefit the team in an important game on the road.

Going with a guard for the team’s World Import also puts the spotlight on the Dragons’ locals in the frontcourt. Ivan Yeo and Kuek Tian Yuan will have their work cut out for them in providing help for Skylar Spencer in trying to slow down Alab’s big man Sampson Carter and James Hughes in the paint. 

Alab Pilipinas will be led by Ray Parks, who will look to bounce back from a quiet night in their 64-62 overtime win against the Singapore Slingers. Battling a shoulder injury all game long, Parks tallied 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists, a far cry from his usual numbers.

It’s a good thing then that Lawrence Domingo stepped up, with 13 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Domingo provides a spark-plug off the bench, and was sorely needed by Alab Pilipinas in a thriller going down the wire. 

Their pair of World imports in Hughes and Carter will also be looked upon to test the locals of the Dragons. Carter had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, including a huge shot in the clutch to push Alab ahead of the Slingers. Hughes on the other hand paced the team with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

In their previous match this season, Alab won over the Dragons in a low scoring affair, 65-54. JR Cawaling led the way with 11 points off the bench, the only player in double figures. Skylar Spencer had 11 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. 

A big reason for Alab’s win against Malaysia was rebounding and points from the bench. The Philippines’ big men challenged the frontcourt of the Dragons and held a 56-40 rebounding edge. That gave them more opportunities to score, which they took advantage off.

Alab Pilipinas’ bench scoring was also more potent, as they had a 31-13 edge in points there. With the emphasis on developing the locals of the Dragons, will more opportunities come their way?

The Dragons are desperate to break a four game losing streak and rise in the standings, while Alab Pilipinas is searching for consistency as the season heats up. Which team will break through?