Finally! Alab Clinches Third Seed After Slaying Long Lions in Davao

In the three losses Alab suffered against the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, the Philippine side was always left searching for answers after the game.

In their fourth and final 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) regular season meeting against the top-seeded team, Alab finally found an answer to their woes in the form of their defense and collective effort as they finally conquered the Long Lions, 82-75, Sunday, March 19 at the USEP Gym in Davao City.

James Hughes imposed his might underneath the rim with Hong Kong center Josh Boone still not around, notching a double-double of 17 points (8-of-13 shooting), 14 rebounds, and adding 3 blocks. He helped steer Alab to a 48-26 advantage in inside points.

However, the main reason for Alab’s win were the key contributions the team received from the locals.

“When everybody contributes, it makes our jobs easier,” Hughes said. “Just as long as everybody is bringing the energy, bringing the fight, it helps everybody across the board.”

Robby Celiz, who started in the place of Sampson Carter, finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.

“Everybody stepped up today and did their part and that’s a huge deal for us today,” Ray Parks said. “It’s a testament to the character of the team. You can see the fight.”

Carter, who came off the bench, top-scored with 20 points and added 7 rebounds. Alab’s reserves outscored Hong Kong’s bench, 35-20. It was a great win for the Philippine squad even if their leading local scorer throughout the season did not have a good night on offense as Parks took only five shots, opting to facilitate and get his teammates involved.

Even Paolo Hubalde, who only had 3 points, was instrumental in limiting Hong Kong’s guards in the end game as he played outstanding defense on Marcus Elliot. The veteran also hit a crucial layup with 38 seconds left in the game to give Alab a two-possession lead at 80-75.

Even more important that breaking their losing skid to Hong Kong Eastern, Alab has now clinched the third seed in the playoffs after improving to 10-9 in the team standings.

“The good thing about his team is there is no ego on this team. Everybody wants to see everybody get better and succeed,” Parks added.

In spite of a flat start, the Long Lions recovered using their usual full-court press, pulling away in the second quarter with a 40-31 lead.

Marcus Elliott and Tyler Lamb combined for  22 first half points as the visitors took a 43-38 lead entering the halftime huddle.

But the home team came alive in the second half, tightening on the defensive end to hold the Long Lions down to just 11 third quarter points.

After taking a slim 55-54 edge entering the final frame, Alab poured it on from deep, with three-point connections by Jeric Fortuna and Val Acuna making it 61-57 for Alab.

The Long Lions still stayed in the game, but the finishing run for Alab proved to be too much to overcome.

After Lamb handed the lead back to Hong Kong, 69-68 on a three-point play with under five minutes left, Alab closed the game on a 14-6 run highlighted by key baskets on one end and stops on another. They outscored Hong Kong, 44-32 overall in the second half.

Hong Kong shot only 33% overall from the field, their worst in four games against Alab. The 75-point output was also the lowest in the head-to-head series.

Elliott finished with 22 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists, but needed 28 shots. He also committed 4 turnovers. Lamb added 19 points but was 7-of-20. Lee Ki was the only other double-digit scorer with 12 markers.

Alab will conclude their schedule on the road against the Kaohsiung Truth next Sunday, March 26.

The Long Lions, on the other hand, will return home on Wednesday, March 22 to battle the Saigon Heat for the final time in the regular season. It will be a chance to measure each other up before their impending meeting in the ABL semifinals.