It took four tries, but Alab Pilipinas finally got a win over the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
Alab prevailed, 82-75, Sunday at the USEP Gym in Davao City, improving to 10-9 with a game left on their schedule. Hong Kong dipped to 15-4, but are still assured of the top seed in the postseason.
Earlier today, the Saigon Heat (8-10) finalized the postseason cast with a win over the Singapore Slingers (12-7), 88-71. The Slingers, last season’s runners-up, are locked into number two.
Alab and Saigon could still tie in the standings if the Heat defeat Hong Kong and the Slingers anew, on Mar. 22 and 25, respectively, and should Alab fall to the Kaohsiung Truth on Mar. 26. However, Alab owns the tiebreaker against Saigon, allowing the top four squads to complete their remaining games without any pressure.
The Long Lions played without world import and former NBA player Josh Boone anew, and as a result, they failed to get a double-digit lead in this game. The visitors were ahead for most of the second and third periods, but Jovet Mendoza tipped in a JR Cawaling miss to put Alab up, 55-54, entering the final canto.
Bobby Ray Parks scored on a layup to put Alab ahead by six, 66-60, with 6:50 left in the game, but Hong Kong countered with a 9-2 blast to briefly go ahead anew. Parks and Ki Lee traded baskets, then six unanswered by the home team gave them the lead for good, 76-71, 2:11 left.
Hong Kong did threaten anew, as a Marcus Elliot dunk pulled them within three, 78-75, 53 seconds left, but Paolo Hubalde quickly responded with a score of his own. Then Elliot and Tyler Lamb both missed triples, and Alab was able to kill clock until Sampson Carter sealed the deal at the stripe.
Alab rejiggered their lineup, moving Carter to the bench with Robby Celiz taking his spot among the starters. The move worked, with Carter top-scoring to the tune of 20 points on an 8-of-11 clip with seven rebounds. Celiz meanwhile dropped 17 markers, as did James Hughes, who paired it with 14 boards. Those more than made up for just a combined 10 points (3-of-12 shooting) from Bobby Ray Parks and Lawrence Domingo.
With Boone still out, Marcus Elliot led the way for Hong Kong with 22 on 28 attempts. He also produced 10 boards, and five assists, but turned it over four times. Tyler Lamb chipped in 19 on 20 shots.
Alab shot 44 percent, while holding Hong Kong to just a 33 percent clip. They also outscored them 48-27 in points in the paint.