There is going to be a new champion in the ASEAN Basketball League.
San Miguel Alab Pilipinas booked the first ticket to the ABL Finals after dethroning the defending champions Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team, 79-72, on Sunday at the Sta. Rosa Multi Purpose Complex in Laguna, Philippines. Alab swept the series, 2-0.
“I’m just really grateful for having a great group of guys,” Alab head coach Jimmy Alapag said proudly.
Justin Brownlee led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Renaldo Balkman, fresh from his historic 46-point effort, finished with 21 points and 11 boards. Aside from the two World Imports, Alab had a ton of help from their locals as Ray Parks, Paolo Javelona, and Pamboy Raymundo provided timely buckets.
“As a player, confidence is such a valuable part. That’s one thing I try to encourage my guys,” Alapag said about his team’s effort, praising his imports, as well as his locals. “As we progress in the season, we will need everybody.”
It was in the third period when Alab unleashed its fury on the visiting squad. The score was tied 43-43 in the 6-minute mark before Alab let loose a decisive 17-6 run to close out the quarter. The home executed their offense with ease while stifling their opponent on the other end of the court.
It also didn’t help for the defending champs that both Tyler Lamb and Christian Stanhardinger were each called for their fourth foul while Alab was breaking the game open. Led by Balkman who had nine points in the period, Alab held an 11-point lead heading into the final frame.
The Philippine team kept their foot on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, converting on three straight triples, to establish a strong 69-51 advantage.
Hong Kong however didn’t wilt under pressure despite the huge deficit. Even though Lamb fouled with 8 minutes left in the game to finish with just 8 points, Marcus Elliott picked up the slack. The reigning World MVP was relentless attacking the basket knowing that his team had their backs against the wall. Elliott did all he could with 25 points.
Hong Kong unfortunately couldn’t overcome their 31 percent shooting on the floor. They were also outrebounded, 55-46.
A bucket by Stanhardinger cut the deficit to just seven points with under a minute left but time was not on the side of Hong Kong. Alab held on for the win thanks to their defense and clutch free throws.
“Our chemistry, the guys really believe that we can get till the end. I’m just really proud of the guys’ effort,” beamed Alapag.
For the first time since 2013, a team from the Philippines is making its way to the ABL Finals. That San Miguel Beermen team were led by Asi Taulava, Chris Banchero, and Leo Avenido.