Alab Pilipinas bests Mono Vampire in thrilling Finals rematch
STA. ROSA, Philippines – It was almost like being back in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals.
For the first time since their five-game title series last season, Alab Pilipinas once again got the better of Thailand's Mono Vampire after a hard-earned 110-100 win in overtime at the Sta. Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna on Sunday, January 20.
Reigning two-time local MVP Ray Parks and Fil-Am Mono point guard Jason Brickman traded threes in the extra period, with Alab going ahead by two, 98-96.
Behemoth big man PJ Ramos then created much-needed separation with a clutch dunk, 102-96, at the exact two-minute mark. Then, the 7-foot-3 giant piled on two more 30 seconds later for the 104-96 lead.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Balkman then shut the game off for good with a breakaway layup for an eight-point edge, 108-100, with just a minute to go.
The reigning league champs looked headed for disaster as they fell to a 13-point hole, 43-56, with just 1:44 left in the 3rd quarter after a Brickman layup.
However, the home crowd-boosted Alab suddenly blazed white-hot with a 20-5 run in under 90 seconds, ending with a go-ahead triple by Caelan Tiongson, 63-61 near the end of the frame.
The Vampires momentarily reseized the lead, 73-72, off a Moses Morgan three midway through the 4th, but Tiongson launched a pair of clutch treys of his own in a late 8-2 run, 80-75, with 3:05 remaining.
However, Mono wouldn't let up and took the lead again, 85-84, with 90 ticks left in regulation after back-to-back threes by Michael Singletary and Frederick Lish.
Hell-bent on defending home court, Balkman put Alab ahead with a layup at the 48-second mark, 86-85. However, Malcolm White got fouled and split his charities for the 86-all tie with 32 seconds remaining.
No baskets fell in the last few seconds as the game went into overtime.
Alab head coach Jimmy Alapag couldn't help but praise both sides.
"Their record is very, very deceiving. I know they've had some early-season struggles, but that's a really, really good team," Alapag said of coach Douglas Marty's squad. "For me, I'm expecting them to go find their way because we still have more than half the season still to play before the playoffs start."
"I'm happy with our guys, he continued. "We struggled in the first half, but we had a quick turnaround. In the 3rd quarter, we got to string together a lot of stops. Balk was great defensively. Caelan kinda triggered our transition. We finally got rolling offensively and we were able to find a way out of that hole we were in." – Rappler.com