MANILA, Philippines – Alab Pilipinas ended an alarming three-game slide by eking out a vengeful 82-75 victory over solo leader and tormentor Hong Kong Eastern to virtually clinch the third seed in the ASEAN Basketball League at the USEP Gym in Davao City.
Sampson Carter and Robby Celiz fired 20 and 17 points, respectively, to nail their 10th win against nine defeats while putting a stop to the Filipinos' three-game losing skid, including two straight at the hands of the Long Lions.
It helped the host team that Hong Kong rested former NBA cager Josh Boone for the second game in a row.
Alab coach Mac Cuan, however, said the key was his team's strong start.
"I'm just happy we didn’t start flat and we competed right from the start regardless of the Boone situation," said Cuan. "Also loved the effort and even saw players diving on the floor.
"Great win to get our minds right for the playoffs and start preparing for it," he added.
Regardless of its final elimination round game against a the Kaohsiung Truth of Chinese Taipei, which is already eliminated with a 5-13 (win-loss) record, at the Kaohsiung Municipal Senior High School in Taipei on Tuesday, Alab Pilipinas will play the Singapore Slingers in the best-of-three semis.
The Slingers have already assured themselves of the No. 2 spot and the home court edge versus the Filipinos with 12-7 mark.
Cuan though likes his chances.
"I think we are in their head and trying to avoid us in the semis, they've let Saigon beat them their last two games by not playing two of their top players in the last two games," said Cuan.
Hong Kong (15-4) will take on the No. 4 Saigon Heat (8-10) in the other semis duel.
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.