Alab Pilipinas clinch No. 3, top HK Long Lions
Finding its rhythm early, Alab Pilipinas locked up the No. 3 seed heading into the 2017 Asean Basketball League playoffs after an 82-75 victory over Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions on Sunday night at USEP Gym in Davao City.
With import Sampson Carter and local Robby Celiz getting into the groove in the first half, the Filipinos got off to a strong start this time on their way to snapping a three-game losing slide and setting up a clash with No. 2 Singapore Slingers in the best-of-three semifinals starting April 2.
The Slingers own home court advantage in the series, but Alab coach Mac Cuan believes the victory against the league-leading Long Lions will help his squad’s confidence in its playoff push. Hong Kong, which holds the top seed in the playoffs, will play either Saigon Heat or the Malaysia Westports Dragons in the semifinals.
“It’s a great win to get our minds right for the playoffs and start preparing for it,” said Cuan, after Alab beat Hong Kong for the first time after three losses this season.
“Im just happy we didn’t start flat and we competed right from.the start regardless of the (Josh) Boone situation. We also took a stand and didn’t back down from. And most importantly, we communicated on defense.
The Long Lions rested import Josh Boone for the second straight game, allowing James Hughes to also wreak havoc inside the paint. Still, Alab needed a late run to put away the Long Lions, who still led, 71-70, early in the fourth period.
Alab hiked its record to 10-9 heading into its last assignment in Kaohsiung on Sunday against the Kaohsiung Truth.
Celiz fired 13 of his 17 points in the first half alone to keep Alab in the thick of the fight, before the Filipinos rolled in the last two quarters. Hughes added 17 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks for Alab, which was led by Carter’s 20 points.
Alab Pilipinas (82) – Carter 20, Celiz 17, Hughes 17, Parks 8, Acuna 6, Cawaling 4, Hubalde 3, Fortuna 3, Domingo 2, Mendoza 2.
Hong Kong Eastern (75) – Elliot 22, Lamb 19, Lee 12, Chan 8, Fong 6, Guinchard 6, Wu 2, Lau 0, Tang 0.
Quarterscores: 23-25, 38-43, 55-54, 82-75.