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Elliott, Standhardinger sizzle as Eastern downs Alab at start of title defense

Eastern survived in the end despite several physical showdowns that saw Chris Standhardinger and Ivan Johnson going at it a number of times. Dennis Jerome Acosta/Dugout Philippines

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY -- Simply call them Eastern from here on.

Don't worry. The championship pedigree remains.

The team formerly known by the moniker Long Lions opened its ABL title defense with a bang, turning back Alab Pilipinas, 92-89, at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday night.

Eastern survived a late run by Alab in the end of a physical showdown that saw Christian Standhardinger and Ivan Johnson going at it a number of times.

The former Long Lions started out slow as Josh Urbiztondo dropped back-to-back triples to open an 8-2 Alab lead.

But Marcus Elliott began waxing hot, and Eastern began pummeling Alab later in the first half.

Ray-Ray Parks then caught fire in the third quarter and eventually led Alab to a 74-73 lead with 8:07 to go in the fourth.

Eastern fired back with a 9-0 run to open an 82-74 cushion with 7:02 to go.

Alab put up a gallant stand later in the fourth and came to within one, 89-90, with 10.2 seconds left.

Standhardinger, however, saved Eastern with an open layup with 5.2 seconds to play.

Urbiztondo still gave Eastern a scare at the final buzzer as his halfcourt heave went on target, but the shot rattled out.

Standhardinger finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Marcus Elliott added 25 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

Reggie Okosa came up with 28 markers for Alab while Ray Parks, Jr. chipped in 17, 16 in the second half, in a losing effort over HK Eastern.

The Scores:

HK Eastern 92 -- Standhardinger 26, Elliott 25, Lamb 23, Moss 10, Xu 4, Lee 2, Tang 2, Wu 0, Lau 0

Alab Pilipinas 89 -- Okosa 28, Parks 17, Johnson 17, Urbiztondo 14, Sumalinog 9, Domingo 2, Maierhofer 2, Raymundo 0, Celiz 0, Javelona 0, Hontiveros 0

Quarter scores: 24-18, 54-43, 73-68, 92-89

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno