by JONAS TERRADO
Game Wednesday (Baliuag Star Arena, Bulacan)
8 p.m. – Alab Pilipinas vs CLS Knights
Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee once again carried the heavy load, but it was little-known Paolo Javelona who sparked a decisive second quarter that propelled Alab back to its winning ways after losses to the Westports Malaysia Dragons and Chong Son Kung Fu.
Balkman scored 30 points, Brownlee compiled 24 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists while Javelona produced a season-high 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 21 minutes, much to the delight of a capacity crowd on hand to watch Alab’s only home game down south.
Javelona entered the game averaging just 1.2 points, playing a total of 35 minutes in 11 games.
Ray Parks Jr. and Pamboy Raymundo also contributed 13 points apiece for Alab, which improved to 12-6 after producing its highest-scoring game of the season.
The Jimmy Alapag-coached Alab forged a tie for third with Thailand’s Mono Vampire, but the Philippine side holds the tiebreaker for winning all of their two meetings in the eliminations.
Both clubs are a game behind second-running Chong Son (13-5) and two below leader Hong Kong Eastern (12-4) with less than two weeks to play in the eliminations. The top two squads advance outright to the semis, with the third to sixth placers meeting in crossover quarterfinals.
Alab held a 31-28 lead early in the second but Balkman scored before Javelona knocked back-to-back triples in a matter of 36 seconds that extended the gap to 39-28, 8:19 remaining in the period.
American center Maxie Esho finished with 24 points for Saigon, which dropped to 9-9 but already secured the sixth and final playoff spot after the Westports Malaysia Dragons fell to 5-12 with an 87-68 loss to CLS Knights in Surabaya, Indonesia.