MANILA, Philippines – Hong Kong Eastern just pushed defending champion Alab Pilipinas on the brink of elimination.
The No. 7 Hong Kong squad pulled off a stunning 90-88 escape act against San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to move within a win of a series upset in Game 1 of the ABL Season 9 quarterfinals in Hoopsdome Cebu on Friday, March 29.
Alab skidded to a fifth straight loss after a rousing start to the season that secured them the No. 2 berth. And the Philippine club now faces a must-win situation when the best-of-three series shifts to Hong Kong for Game 2 on Wednesday, April 3.
Hong Kong import O’Darien Bassett led the way with 29 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Fellow reinforcement Marcus Elliot fired 22 markers while Michael Holyfield anchored the squad with a 14-point, 16-board double-double.
Although Alab mounted a 15-point lead early in the 3rd, Bassett kickstarted a 16-2 comeback that put his team within one, 61-62, with 2:16 left in the frame.
Both teams then traded blows until Holyfield knotted the game 77-all midway through the 4th. The Hong Kong big man kept the aggression up down the stretch, giving them a late 85-84 lead with a minute to go.
However, reigning two-time Local MVP Ray Parks followed up with a clutch go-ahead jumper, 86-85, with 39 ticks left.
Not to be outdone by their 3 imports, local gunner Lai Lau responded with a huge triple to lift Hong Kong by two in the final 32 seconds of regulation. Lau finished with 9 points on a 3-of-4 (75%) shooting.
Alab had a chance to tie or reclaim the lead, but Ethan Alvano’s corner three clanked off, forcing Caelan Tiongson to foul Marcus Elliot off the rebound to stop the clock.
Elliot then calmly sank his two penalty shots to give Hong Kong a safe two-possession lead, 90-86, with only 13 seconds left on the clock.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Balkman paced Alab with a near triple-double of 30 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists.
PJ Ramos returned from a one-game absence with a 17-point, 7-board effort while Tiongson had 13 markers and 7 rebounds.
Hong Kong 90 – Bassett 29, Elliott 22, Holyfield 14, Lau 9, Xu 8, Siu 5, Lee 3, Chan 0.
Alab Pilipinas 88 – Balkman 30, Ramos 17, Tiongson 13, Parks 10, Alvano 8, Rosser 7, Javelona 3, Urbiztondo 0, Sumalinog 0.
Quarters: 22-23, 36-44, 63-66, 90-88.