For the Mono Vampire Basketball Club, they knew they just had to get into the postseason to give themselves a fighting chance.
Mono knew that they could give any team a run for their money in a best-of-three series. And on Sunday, they did the improbable.
The eighth-seed team from Thailand scored the biggest win in the first four games of the playoffs with their gutsy 83-80 road victory against top-seeded Formosa Dreamers. For Michael Singletary, one of the leaders of the team, their trust and belief in each other remains steadfast.
“We got a confident bunch. We’ve been playing really well ever since we got our footing and our team together,” Singletary said. “We feel like it was just a matter of getting into the playoffs. We had a great opportunity tonight to come out and kind of set the tone for the series. We got a big win.”
Singletary put his fingerprints all over Game 1 with a dominant performance of 23 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and four blocks. But just as they’ve done all season long, it was a collective team effort for Mono against the formidable Formosa squad. Romeo Travis had a double-double of 19 points and 11 boards while Tyler Lamb fired 17 points. The game went down the wire and Mono needed everyone to step.
“Especially down a guy, [without] our big guy Malcolm [White],” pointed out Singletary as White had to sit out due to a suspension. “It’s tough. We took contributions from everybody. It’s great.”
Mono’s Game 1 feat is impressive not just because of the fact that the lowest seed of the playoffs bested the number one team of the regular season, but the arduous uphill journey that they had to go through is just as noteworthy.
Finalists a year ago, Mono Vampire found themselves in unfamiliar territory at the start of the season. They owned a 2-12 at one point as their playoff chances dimmed after every loss. However, midseason roster changes allowed them to turn things around. The acquisitions of Travis, Lamb, and Freddie Lish worked out for them during the latter half of the season. They would go on to win nine of their 12 remaining games and clinched a playoff berth in the process.
“I don’t think we were worried,” Singletary said about his team’s playoff chances early on. “We were so focused on continuing to play well and continuing to gel like a team, to get the chemistry that we have. We weren’t really worried about where we were going to end up. We [were] just hopeful we could get in.”
Singletary, one of the veterans that helped the team reach the finals last year that pushed San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to the brink, isn’t one to take all the credit for Mono’s rise. He is quick to deflect credit to how the team battled adversity throughout the season.
“It’s not just me,” he humbly said. “We got a bunch of great guys. We all keep each other grounded, keep each other accountable to the standard we have as a Mono Vampire team.
“We weren’t happy to where we were, but once we started going, we knew we just had to grind out games and continue to play as hard as we can, luckily, we were able to turn it around and get into the playoffs,” he added.
With merely one playoff win under their belt, Mono Vampire know that it’s still a long road of getting back into the finals. But just as they’ve done to reach the playoffs, they’ll take it step by step.
“It’s going to take us everything that we got,” Singletary said. “It’s gonna take not just the starting five, it’s going to take the bench guys, from the coaches to the management, to everybody that we have. We’re gonna do our best to continue to take it game by game.”