San Miguel Alab Pilipinas continued its mastery over the Saigon Heat, having its way against the visiting team in a 110-100 victory to take a 1-0 series lead in the 2018 ASEAN Basketball League Quarterfinals, Sunday evening.
During the elimination round, Alab had swept the series. The Philippine-based club team defeated Saigon on the road, 95-87, last January 28, before taking a 126-100 victory last March 14 in Davao.
Moreover, this is the sophomore franchise’s first-ever playoff win. Last season, Alab was swept by the Singapore Slingers in the semifinals.
“I’m happy we won, but I don’t think I did a very good job,” rued first-year Alab head coach Jimmy Alapag. “In an effort standpoint, it was great but we were far from the sharpest we could be. That’s on me.”
Reigning Local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. played all 40 minutes in the contest, finishing with 24 points.
Justin Brownlee almost picked up a triple-double with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Renaldo Balkman added 17 points and 20 rebounds.
Behind Balkman, Alab outworked the Heat on the board during the first half the set the tone for the home team. The World Import had already gobbled up nine offensive boards during the first 20 minutes of the game.
Visibly frustrated, Saigon head coach Kyle Julius was slapped with his second technical foul with two minutes left in the first half, after alleging that Balkman had traveled during a put-back attempt.
The bench of Alab stepped up during the third frame, with Pamboy Raymundo, Lawrence Domingo, and Dondon Hontiveros taking turns increasing Alab’s lead. Alab’s cushion ballooned to as high as 22 points, 97-75, after a Parks jumper with 7:28 left.
Alab’s bench finished with 36 points, with Domingo leading the charge with his season-high 18 points.
Saigon’s troika of Maxie Esho, Mikey Williams, and Akeem Scott, the Heat would cut the lead to as low as 10 points in the final frame. But Balkman and Brownlee made timely baskets to seal off any further Saigon comeback.
Esho picked up his career-high with 42 points on 16-of-21 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds. Mikey Williams and Akeem Scott chipped in 19 markers apiece.
“We gave up a hundred points to four guys, that falls on me,” Alapag expressed. “We have to be sharper both offensively and defensively. We had the game in hand in a lot of instances but let them get back into it, turnover, bad fouls — the only advantage is we won the first game.”
Rico Maiherhofer and Josh Urbiztondo missed the game due to injuries.
Alab can close out the series on Saturday, April 7, at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City. The winner of the series will take on the second-seeded Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team in the best-of-three semifinals series.
Alab 110– Parks 24, Brownlee 22, Domingo 18, Balkman 17, Hontiveros 8, Raymundo 7, Sumalinog 6, Javelona 5, Celiz 3.
Saigon 100– Esho 42, Williams 19, Scott 19, Morgan 16, T. Nguyen 3, Arnold 1.
Quarterscores: 30-24; 57-47; 90-72; 110-100.