Sam Deguara needed to use all of his towering 7-foot-5 frame to hit the game-winning basket to lift the Mono Vampire Basketball Club past Chong Son Kung Fu Basketball Club, 83-80, on Wednesday at Stadium 29.
With the win, Mono is now headed to the ABL Finals.
The game was tied at 80 apiece as Deguara received a pinpoint pass from Jason Brickman at the rim with two seconds left. The hulking center needed only to turn and shoot, as he even got the and-1 opportunity when time expired. His free throw put the cherry on top of his heroic late game finish.
Deguara ended up with a monster double-double of 19 points, 19 rebounds, while also adding 4 blocks. Michael Singletary finished with 23 points on a poor 9-for-31 shooting clip but still managed to get 13 rebounds. Brickman meanwhile once again orchestrated the potent Mono Vampire offense with 23 points and 9 assists.
Deguara first hit a pair of clutch free throws with 7.3 seconds left to give Mono a slim 80-77 edge. With the door still open for Chong Son, Mikh McKinney took it upon himself to save his team’s season. The versatile forward raced down the court and drilled a gutsy three-pointer to tie the game. Unfortunately, it was all for naught as Deguara would answer on the other end with the game-winning play.
Mono survived it what would have been a monumental collapse. The home team raced to a dominant 15-0 in the opening minutes, determined to sweep the series.
Chong Son finally showed some signs of life in the second period and eventually took over come the third quarter. The number one ranked team was in desperation mode, not wanting to end their season. Led by Justin Howard, McKinney, and Tian Yuheng, Kung Fu countered with a 25-9 third quarter to take control of the game.
Howard finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds while McKinney added 20 points, including two triples. Tian, who started in the place of the injured Caelan Tiongson, provided some tremendous shooting for his team to finish with 15 points.
Despite the strong showing of the aforementioned trio, their leader Anthony Tucker had a forgetful 9-point performance. Although he did have 7 boards and 6 dimes, he could not overcome his 4-for-16 shooting.
Mono was staring at a seven-point deficit heading into the final quarter but the brilliance of Brickman and Deguara gave the home team the final push it needed. The duo’s connection and chemistry was evident in the game-winning play that helped them barge into the Finals.
Mono will now face the streaking San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in a best-of-five series to determine the ABL champion.
This will be the first time since 2011 that a team from the Philippines and Thailand will meet in the ABL Finals. Seven years ago, the Chang Thailand Slammers defeated the AirAsia Philippine Patriots to become champions.