By Jonas Terrado
STA. ROSA, Laguna – San Miguel Alab Pilipinas believes it can still play better than in the recent semifinal sweep of dethroned champion Hong Kong Eastern ahead of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals showdown against either Thailand’s Mono Vampire or China’s Chong Son Kung Fu.
Alab continued its rise from a 0-3 start Sunday night by finishing off the Christian Standhardinger-led Hong Kong squad, 79-72, at the City of Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex here, marking the fifth time a Philippine team advanced to the finals since the regional league was formed in 2009.
“We gotta prepare ourselves for the next series. The next step for us is to win the championship,” said Alab import Renaldo Balkman, who had 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals against Hong Kong.
The Jimmy Alapag-coached squad is awaiting the winner of the other best-of-three semifinal series between Mono Vampire and Chong Son, the former ahead after Wednesday’s 103-94 victory in the opener in Nanhai, China.
Mono goes for a sweep of the series tomorrow afternoon at home in Bangkok, Thailand. A deciding third game, if necessary, is set Friday in Nanhai.
Alapag lauded the resolve his players shown after bouncing back from a rough start, mainly because of the arrival of Balkman and Justin Brownlee in January.
Balkman and Brownlee led an Alab turnaround highlighted by an eight-game winning streak during the eliminations and an ongoing seven straight victories highlighted by the quarterfinal sweep of the Saigon Heat and the aforementioned mastery of Hong Kong.