It was a game that lived up to its billing as a Finals opening duel that will be etched forever in ABL history. By all accounts, it was an instant classic that featured two proud teams refusing to let up.
After the dust settled, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas were able to draw first blood in the Finals, getting the 143-130 overtime victory against the Mono Vampire Basketball Club on Sunday inside a raucous Sta Rosa Multi Purpose Complex.
Justin Brownlee stood above everyone else with 46 points, setting an ABL Finals scoring record, while also adding 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. He was simply superb down the stretch as he scored 10 points in the extra session. Renaldo Balkman was just as impressive with a 39-point, 15-rebound performance.
“In all my years of being involved in professional basketball, I’ve never seen and never been part of a game like what you saw tonight,” coach Jimmy Alapag said in amazement. “I was amazed with the offensive showing we put on in a 45-minute game.”
The two World Imports of Alab were the heroes of the Philippine squad, connecting on the final sequence of regulation to send the game into overtime. With 4.2 seconds left and Alab facing a two-point deficit, Brownlee trooped to the line hoping to tie the game. He missed the first, and in an astonishing move, intentionally missed the second free throw and got the rebound. He missed his putback attempt but Balkman was there to tie the game.
“We’re a team that try to depend on each other. One man cant do it,” Brownlee said about that game-defining sequence. “Balkman was there for me. I missed the free throw but he was there for the putback. That’s just the character of our team.”
In overtime, Brownlee simply overwhelmed Mono without Sam Deguara who fouled out towards the end of regulation.
In Alab’s record-setting 143 points, there were a lot of players who contributed, including Ray Parks who tallied 27 points (most by local player in a Finals Game) and 5 boards. Lawrence Domingo was workhorse on the defensive end while still being a contributor on offense with 14 points.
Despite Alab’s scoring explosion, Alapag was quick to point out their flaws on the defensive end. “I’m definitely not happy giving up 130 points,” the coach said. “Again, it was really a hurdle with the types of efforts from these guys.”
Michael Singletary led Mono with 42 points and 10 rebounds, and Jason Brickman orchestrated his team’s offense with 15 points and 14 dimes (most in a Finals Game) before cramping up late in the fourth. Sam Deguara meanwhile battled through foul trouble and finished with a double-double of 21 points and 11 boards.
Alab will now look to take a 2-0 lead on Wednesday in Game 2.
“I’m proud of our guys. I know we have to be much much better on Wednesday,” Alapag closer.