The first playoff game of the season went down the wire as Hong Kong Eastern steals homecourt advantage after the 90-88 Game 1 win on the road against San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) quarterfinals.
Lau Tsz Lai hit the biggest shot of the game as he nailed the go-ahead shot from beyond the arc with 32 seconds remaining in the game to allow Eastern to draw first blood in their best-of-three series against the defending champions.
Coming into their first playoff match after losing their final four games of the regular season, Alab Pilipinas finally had a nearly complete squad after having four players back together in uniform. Having the import duo of Renaldo Balkman and PJ Ramos proved to be key for the home team, but they were not able to contain the visitors in the second half of the game.
After trailing by as much as 15 points halfway through the third period, Hong Kong Eastern pulled off a huge run led by O’Darien Bassett and Marcus Elliott, to cut the lead down to a single point towards the end of the quarter.
Eastern finally took their first lead of the game after Adam Xu nailed a corner three with a little under four minutes remaining in the game. Both teams went back-and-forth before Lau hit the elbow three to put them up by two.
Balkman hit a layup to trail 88-90 after two free throws from Elliott, after which Eastern turned the ball over in an inbounds play. Giving reigning two-time MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr. 10 seconds to have one final chance to force overtime or take the lead, but had his perimeter jumper partially deflected by Michael Holyfield after initially looking to make a pass.
O’Darien Bassett led Hong Kong with 29 points to go with seven assists, while backcourt partner Marcus Elliott finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, and five dimes. Michael Holyfield added 14 points and 16 boards, while local shooters Lau Tsz Lai and Adam Xu finished with a combined 17 points off 6-for-7 shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, Renaldo Balkman led all scorers with 30 points, adding 13 boards and seven assists in the loss. PJ Ramos added 17 markers, while local forwards Caelan Tiongson and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Game two shifts to Hong Kong as the number seven seeded Eastern Long Lions look to complete the upset and eliminate Alab Pilipinas when they clash at the Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai on April 3.
Follow us on Twitter at @aseansports1.