The Wolf Warriors finally relished the sweet taste of victory in their maiden ABL season when they defeated the CLS Knights Indonesia in their last game in 2018. The team is hopeful that the new year will bring in new luck for them but they have a tall task ahead of them in the undefeated defending champion San Miguel Alab Pilipinas.
The steady contributions of local big man Cai Chen led to him being named as the last Player of the Week for 2018 as he led his team with 25 points, six rebounds, and nine assists in their 96-88 victory against the Knights. With a more able crew of imports around him, the Wolf Warriors are now a more dangerous team especially after scoring their first victory.
However, they will be faced with a tough challenge as Alab will be playing in front of a sold-out arena as they play for the first time in Cebu.
Led by Puerto Rican imports Renaldo Balkman and PJ Ramos, the defending champions have looked good in their wins but not completely unstoppable. The only team that elected not to hire a third import to start the season had a tough time dealing with the Singapore Slingers in their last game but they pulled through with some big plays in the end game.
While their two imports are automatic double-doubles (Ramos had 26 points and 17 rebounds and Balkman had 20 points and 16 rebounds against the Slingers), the supporting cast is also important for Alab. Ray Parks chipped in 18 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three steals against Singapore while not turning the ball over in 33 minutes.
The key for Alab is to control the output of Mike Bell and new import Mike Taylor as Balkman might be matched up against Cai to limit his output. This means that guys like Caelan Tiongson, Lawrence Domingo, Ethan Alvano, and even Parks could take turns on the opposing imports while allowing Ramos and Eddy Curry battle it out underneath.
For the Wolf Warriors, it’s important to get other guys, such as Cris Shentu and Jenning Leung, to get going as nothing short of a total team effort would be enough to topple the defending champions.