James Hughes comes big for Alab Pilipinas, who finally took down Eastern for the fourth time of asking. (file)
By Kevin Estrada
MANILA--After four agonizing tries, Alab Pilipinas finally defeat Eastern for the very first time to close out their homestand in a close encounter, 82-75 last Sunday night at the jampacked University of Southeastern Philippines Gym in Davao.
Sampson Carter topscored for the home side with 20 points, but it was center James Hughes who made a mincemeat of the Hong Kong side without Josh Boone to register a double-double of 17 markers and 14 boards, as Alab clinched the third spot in the postseason by avoiding being shut out by the Long Lions in the process in the regular season.
With Bobby Ray Parks being shut down by the combined defense of Tyler Lamb and Marcus Elliot as he was limited to just 8 points, Robby Celiz's 17 was a huge boost to Mac Cuan's team as they are now assured of a .500 record in their debut season as they will play their final game of the regular season away at already eliminated Kaohsiung next week.
Alab fell behind in the first two frames on the strength of the Long Lion's long range game, but got its act together in the second half, eventually getting the lead at the end of the third quarter on a last-second Jovet Mendoza putback, 55-54.
In the final frame, Alab kept their nerve in answering every shot by Eastern, until Paolo Hubalde's lay-up with 38 seconds left eventually settled the tight contest.
ALAB PILIPINAS (10-9) 82 -- Carter 20, Hughes 17, Celiz 17, Parks 8, Acuña 6, Cawaling 4, Fortuna 3, Hubalde 3, Domingo 2, Mendoza 2
EASTERN (15-4) 75 -- Elliot 22, Lamb 19, Lee 12, Chan 8, Fong 6, Guinchard 6, Wu 2
Quarter scores: 23-25, 43-38, 55-54, 82- 75