STA. ROSA, Laguna — Renaldo Balkman was all heart from start to finish, leading San Miguel Alab Pilipinas to a 102-92 win over Mono Vampire in Game Five on Wednesday night and a maiden Asean Basketball League (ABL) championship.
Balkman led an opening 18-8 salvo and forced Mono Vampire’s 7-foot-5 import Samuel Deguara into foul trouble early, setting the tone for an emphatic victory fashioned out before a delirious home crowd at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex.
The Alab import had 21 points in the first half and the home squad kept a safe distance from Mono to bring the ABL title back to Philippine shores - five years after the success of a San Miguel side coached by Leo Austria and led by June Mar Fajardo and Asi Taulava.
"It took our best effort tonight to win this," said Jimmy Alapag, a former PBA MVP and Gilas Pilipinas hero who won a championship in his head-coaching debut.
It wasn't easy, though.
Coming off a semifinal exit in its maiden ABL season last year, Alab struggled early and had to go through a change in sponsor as well as the arrival of crack imports Balkman and Justin Brownlee to turn itself into a title contender.
It wasn't a smooth sailing from there, but the championship pedigree and the resilience of the team shone through in the playoffs.
Balkman finished with 32 points and nine rebounds, while Brownlee had 24 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists for Alab, the third Philippine side to lift the trophy, after SMB in 2013 and the Philippine Patriots in 2010.
Ray Parks capped his series-long brilliance with 13 points in Game Five to win the Finals MVP award in perhaps his final game before moving to the PBA.
Alab Pilipinas 102 - Balkman 32, Brownlee 24, Parks 13, Raymundo 9, Domingo 9, Javelona 7, Urbiztondo 5, Hontiveros 3, Celiz 0, Maierhofer 0, Sumalinog 0.
Mono Vampire 92 - Singletary 32, Deguara 24, Zamar 19, Brickman 9, Chantachon 6, Apiromvilaichai 2, Khukhandhin 0, Boonyai 0, Sunthonsiri 0, Phuangla 0, Ananti 0, Klahan 0.
Quarterscores: 27-14; 54-45; 82-61; 102-92.