The red-hot San Miguel Alab Pilipinas continued their winning streak and picked up another win at the expense of the Mono Vampire Basketball Club, 86-84, Wednesday night at the Baliuag Star Arena in Bulacan.
The win was Alab’s sixth straight victory and allowed them to leapfrog the Thailand-based squad in the team standings. Their streak brought Alab to within shouting distance of the league leaders as they now have 9 wins against 4 losses, just behind Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team (9-2) and Chong Son Kung Fu (8-2). The great news for Alab is that these two teams have yet to face each other and are scheduled for four meetings in the elimination round, which should give them a chance of sneaking into the top two and get the direct ticket to the semifinals if they take care of business.
San Miguel’s first win against Mono Vampire came easily as they led for much of the game. However, the second one was not as simple.
A triple from Josh Urbiztondo gave them an 84-79 lead but Mono Vampire would not go down without a fight.
Jason Brickman replied with a runner inside to inch them closer before assisting on a Mike Singletary three that tied the count at 75-all. With 19 seconds in the game, San Miguel’s head coach Jimmy Alapag drew up a two-man game for his World Imports.
Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman went to a high-ball screen with the former dishing out the perfect pocket pass to the latter. Balkman used his speed to score a layup even as the 7-foot-4 Sam Deguara went for the block.
Mono Vampire still had three seconds to work with to try and force overtime or win the game with a triple but Singletary’s corner three-ball attempt was blocked by Brownlee as Balkman caught the call and threw it up the rafters with the buzzer sounding.
“Today we started kind of slow and but we came together as a team at halftime,” said Balkman who was named the AirAsia Player of the Game with 31 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 1 block.
Balkman rued Alab’s slow start as they allowed Mono Vampire to build a 9-point lead in the first quarter thanks to the hot hands of Singletary and Ratdech Kruatiwa. Alab would be tested again in the fourth as Mono Vampire took the lead midway through the quarter after a basket from Teerawat Chanthachon but they responded well with big plays from Urbiztondo, Brownlee, and Balkman.
“They’re a great basketball team,” Balkman said of Mono Vampire. “They were ahead of us (in the team standings) but we came out with a win. Right now, we want to go all the way to the top. Every game, we’re taking it one at a time. We stuck to our game plan and we did a great job. We just need to keep on playing together and keep on getting assists and playing defense, sticking to our man.”
Brownlee was Balkman’s main backup with 16 points in the game but he struggled from the field on 6 of 22 shooting. He did, however, add 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 5 blocks.
Ray Parks also scored in double digits with 10 while Urbiztondo and Chris Sumalinog both scored 8.
Deguara led Mono Vampire with another monster double-double with 21 points and 18 rebounds. Singletary and Brickman also had double-doubles with 19 points and 12 rebounds and 11 points and 11 rebounds, respectively, but it was not enough to overcome the poise of San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the end game.