Tough year for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas after bowing out of contention

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No team or nation in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) has ever won a championship in consecutive years.

Looks like the trend would remain with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas’ early exit in the quarterfinals of the 2018-19 season.

The defending ABL champions, who finished the eliminations at second place, bombed out of contention for back-to-back titles after a 2-0 series loss to the seventh-seed Hong Kong Eastern Lions. The 2017-18 champions and last season’s semifinalists shocked Alab Pilipinas in the opener in Cebu, 90-88, last March 29, followed by a 102-84 closeout last April 3 at their home floor in Wan Chai.

It was an acrimonious end for the tournament for Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Josh Urbiztono, Caelan Tiongson and the rest of Alab Pilipinas, who were gunning for a title repeat after striking gold in the eighth season of the ABL. After a promising 5-0 win-loss start to Season 9, the Jimmy Alapag-mentored squad stumbled towards the end of the 10-nation joust as it dealt with an assortment of challenges and adversities.

The Slump

Alab Pilipinas opened up its campaign in the current ABL season in the most ideal way – a 17-4 record highlighted by a clean 12-0 slate at home. League observers had Alab Pilipinas penciled as a potential finalist as early as the middle part of the preliminaries.

However, the reigning ABL titlists hobbled to the finish line of the eliminations, losing their last four matches including an 88-74 defeat at home to the Formosa Dreamers. With an 18-8 record, Alab Pilipinas even relinquished the top spot in the team standings to the Dreamers, who finished with a 19-7 card.

Then came the two playoff game losses at the hands of the Lions that sealed the fate of the deposed champions.

The injuries

Alab Pilipinas’ last victory in the tournament turned out to be resident big man Lawrence Domingo’s final game in uniform. In Alab Pilipinas’ 101-96 home win against the Macau Black Bears last March 8, the 6-foot-4 forward went 5-of-5 from the field to tally 11 points. Domingo, however, failed to suit up for their remaining games due to a knee injury.

During the aforementioned four-game slump, Alab Pilipinas world import Renaldo Balkman sat out of three contests due to surgery on his broken nose. Even Parks, the two-time league MVP, missed games in January for a groin injury.

The third world import

At the start of the season, the ABL allowed teams to enlist three foreign imports instead of just two. Almost all teams took advantage of the rule change, except for one.

Alab Pilipinas, the reigning titleholders, stuck with Balkman and fellow Puerto Rican Peter John Ramos as their reinforcements. Despite the clamor from fans, the second tour of duty for Justin Brownlee – a well-loved import who paired up with Balkman for Alab Pilipinas last season – never materialized. The former PBA Best Import awardee signed up last March with Al Riyadi, a powerhouse squad in the Lebanese Basketball League.

Photo credit: ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Facebook page

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