Despite a slow start to the ASEAN Basketball League season, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas never gave up. Despite being at the bottom of the standings with an 0-3 record, they still had a bigger dream and vision for their outcome.
And after five grueling games in the Finals, that vision has become a reality. From the bottom all the way to the top, they are the new standard in the ABL.
With a 102-92 win over a game Mono Vampire Basketball Club, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas has ascended the summit, claiming the ABL title in front of almost 6,000 fans packing the City of Santa Rosa Multipurpose Complex in Laguna City, Philippines.
World Import and co-Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Balkman paced San Miguel Alab Pilipinas 32 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. All season long, his energy and passion has powered the Philippine-based squad. Before Game 5, he promised everyone that he and his team would put on a show. He definitely kept his word.
Balkman’s teammate Justin Brownlee was also instrumental in the victory, tallying a near-triple double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. The personalities mild-mannered Brownlee may be polar opposites with the ferocity of Balkman, but the two were a perfect combination for Alab Pilipinas, and their versatility was enough to lead Alab to the victory. How fitting that the two gamechanging imports who turned around Alab’s fortunes to start 2018 would be the duo that would lead them all the way to the title.
Playing at home after back to back games on the road in Bangkok, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas looked energized early on in the first quarter. Head Coach Jimmy Alapag’s wards frustrated Mono Vampire to substandard shooting, en route to only 14 points at the end of the first period.
However Mono Vampire broke loose in the 2nd quarter, as they 31 points led by a terrific performance from World Import Mike Singletary and the dominating play of Sam Deguara. The two combined to score 24 points of the total team output, as they entered the half trailing 54-45.
The third quarter was where the game got away from Mono Vampire. Free throws from Mono Heritage Import Paul Zamar cut down the deficit to only 6 points at the 8:28 mark of the period. But San Miguel countered with a 25-10 run that broke open a tight ball game, giving Alab a 21 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter, 82-61.
From then on it was all a matter of taking care of the lead for the home team. But despite the best efforts of the visiting Mono Vampire, there would be no dramatic comeback on the road. A monstrous dunk by Brownlee with 7:21 left in the game kept the fans electrified, and a running floater by Renaldo Balkman over the outstretched arms of Deguara to push their lead back to 15 points was the exclamation point.
When the buzzer sounded, Alab Pilipinas celebrated in front of their home fans, as the ABL was back in the Philippines for the first time since 2013. A tearful Ray Parks was named ABL Finals MVP, finishing the series with 13 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists in Game 5.
Singletary led Mono Vampire with 32 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Deguara had 24 points and 18 rebounds. Heritage Import and 2016 ABL Finals MVP had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
It was a gutsy performance by Mono Vampire all season long in the ABL. But they’ll have to wait for next year to exact their revenge and make another run to the title. For the time being, the ABL championship will stay in the Philippines. San Miguel Alab Pilipinas made sure that it wouldn’t be taken away from them.