Given Chance to Shine, Hubalde Buckles Down Defensively to Help Alab

It has been a proven formula for Alab Pilipinas that when more people contribute to their cause rather than just their imports and key players, they succeed.

In their final match-up against the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions last Sunday, Alab did just that, digging deep to pull off an 82-75 win.

It was the Philippine side’s only victory against the Long Lions in the regular season, but importantly, they assured themselves of the third seed in the 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoffs after improving to 10-9 in the standings.

Alab poured in 27 points in the payoff period to erase a nine-point deficit in the first half. Center James Hughes played big, notching 17 points and 14 rebounds. Sampson Carter came off the bench for 20 points, while Robby Celiz added 17 markers.

But lost in Alab’s fourth quarter brilliance was the equally important lockdown defense played by guard Paolo Hubalde in the last few minutes of the contest, especially against Marcus Elliott.

“Me personally, I took it as a motivation. I believed that if I stopped Elliott, make it miserable for him, it will make a difference because he is the heart and soul of Hong Kong,” Hubalde shared after the win.

From the start, it looked like the Long Lions’ World import was on his way to putting on another sizzling offensive performance as he had 8 points in the first quarter alone. But Alab held Elliott down in the next three quarters, especially in the fourth where the home team would create separation and eventually succeed.

Hong Kong still had a 69-68 lead with under five minutes left in regulation, but Hubalde clamped down on Elliott, making him miss all of his outside shots after that point.

Hubalde played Elliott on-ball several times, approaching the pick and rolls well, recovering quickly, and staying in front of his assignment as much as possible. He challenged most of Elliott’s attempts, not giving too much room for the Long Lions guard.

The result was Elliott virtually disappearing in the fourth quarter. He scored only five points in the final 10 minutes and shot only 2-of-9 from the field.

Overall, Elliott finished with 22 points on 8-of-28 shooting, certainly below his standard as one of the best players in the league this year. The sub-par performance would affect the entire team, as the they made only 33% of their attempts and only had 11 assists.

“I am very thankful for coach McC Cuan’s trust in me. I was really patient because the whole season I don’t really get big minutes,” Hubalde said.

Hubalde played only 9:07 the last time Alab faced Hong Kong, but on Sunday, the guard logged 22:31.

“I told myself that for this opportunity, I have to give it back. Even if I didn’t score, at least I paid attention to the details,” Hubalde said.

His dedication on the defensive end even gave him a break offensively, as he scored on a drive which pushed his squad to safety, 80-75 under the final minute.

Hubalde’s final statline was 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting, nowhere near the gaudy numbers his other teammates put up on a nightly basis, but Hubalde knows he has done his part.

“Whoever scores for us, it’s okay. We win as a team and we lose as a team. If others are playing well offensively, it’s up to the others to take care of the other aspects of the game,” Hubalde emphasized.

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

Parks himself deferred to his teammates, taking only five attempts from the field and finishing with only 8 points.

“In the last few games we always rely on Ray. Everyone defends him well. So you have to step up as a team when he has a hard time. We have to make our shots, play defense, pay attention to the small details,” Hubalde added.

The win gave Alab much-needed momentum as well heading into the playoffs, and if they continue to play together and have everyone pitch in no matter what the way, higher-seeded teams may be up for a challenge.

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