Alab Pilipinas sweeps defending ABL champion HK Eastern, secures finals berth


MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel Alab Pilipinas decided that two games were enough in their ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) semifinals campaign, sweeping defending champion Hong Kong Eastern, 79-72, at the Sta Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna on Sunday, April 15.
In front of a packed home crowd, Alab Pilipinas successfully secured an ABL finals berth and now awaits the winner of the semis series between Chong Son Kung Fu and Mono Vampire.
For the second straight game, the Alab Big 3 again finished with a trifecta of double-doubles. Renaldo Balkman followed up his 46-point Game 1 explosion with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Brownlee chipped in 22 points and 11 boards of his own, while Bobby Ray Parks Jr added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Balkman and Brownlee gave fans an early treat with a 6-0 opening run, including a tomahawk flush on the break from the Ginebra San Miguel star import. However, the defending ABL champions slowly chipped at the deficit and took advantage of an ice-cold Josh Urbiztondo, who went 0/3 from downtown while the Eastern were making a run. Both teams ended the quarter at a 16-all deadlock.
Alab and Hong Kong then went neck-and-neck at the start of the second period, with the Eastern holding at best a one-possession lead. Then the home team finally found a weak spot around the 3-minute mark after a massive blunder by HK's Lee Ki. On a wide-open fastbreak, Lee somehow blew the layup, which led to a go-ahead bucket by Brownlee for the 29-28 lead. On the next possession, Pao Javelona calmly sank a pull-up trey, 32-28, as the Sta Rosa fans exploded in cheers.
At the half, Alab held a 5-point advantage, 37-32, after a buzzer-beater by HK's Tyler Lamb. At this point, Christian Standhardinger had been soundly guarded by the Philippine squad, ending the first half with two points and 5 rebounds on 1/9 shooting.
Despite some struggles from their stars, Eastern again slowly inched towards Alab's lead, finally tying the game up 43-all after a Ryan Moss and-one at the 6-minute mark of the third.
But Balkman put the entire HK team to shame with an immediate 7-0 personal run for the 50-43 lead, including a crushing poster dunk on Moss and an and-one bucket in the next possession. Alab built on this huge momentum boost and clinched a double-digit lead for the first time, 59-48, off a triple from Parks.
Parks again dropped a three to open the 4th quarter at 63-51. Not to be outdone, Brownlee and Javelona nailed triples of their own to break open a massive 18-point lead, 69-51. The Eastern creeped back to as close as 7 points with 50 ticks left in regulation, but ultimately failed to mount a full-fledged comeback for a potential Game 3 match back in Hong Kong. – Rappler.com  

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