The stage has been set for a colossal semifinals matchup between San Miguel Alab Pilipinas and Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team. These two proud teams crossed paths twice earlier this season, with the defending champions nabbing two wins.
However, Wednesday’s Game 1 will offer a different story as Alab’s World Imports Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee will face Hong Kong Eastern for the very first time.
“It’s gonna be a show,” Balkman vowed, after Alab swept the Saigon Heat to barge into the semis last Saturday. “Just like every day, every night. We go out and give a show for the fans. It’s gonna be a good one. They haven’t seen us, it will be our first time playing them, their first time playing us.”
Balkman, alongside Brownlee, joined Alab after the team suffered a 1-4 start, replacing Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa. The two imports then immediately changed the fortunes of Alab, amassing 15-3 record including the playoffs since their arrival. They even enjoyed the longest winning streak this season with 8 straight victories. Hong Kong has yet to face the new and reformed Alab Pilipinas.
“It’s gonna be a good one,” Balkman repeated.
Individually, Balkman himself is having a terrific year. The former NBA player has put up some huge games for his team. During the regular season, he posted averages of 23.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.9 blocks. He was even named World Import Player of the Week twice this year during Alab’s winning streak. In their Game 2 victory over the Heat, he put up a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“For us it’s being consistent, play hard and play together. Our guys are the best at playing really well right now. If they keep it up, we can’t be stopped,” Balkman proudly said about his teammates. “We’ll take it one game at a time.”
Balkman will be put to test when he and Brownlee go up against Hong Kong’s formidable frontline of Christian Stanhardinger and Ryan Moss. Not to mention, Eastern also has the services of reigning World Import MVP Marcus Elliott and Heritage Import MVP Tyler Lamb.
But for Balkman, he’s not intimidated by the defending champions.
“Listen, man, that was last year. It’s a whole new year,” Balkman said about Hong Kong achieved last season. “They were the champions last year, but until they win again, we’re all fighting for the same thing. They won, but it’s 0-0 on Wednesday.”