Alapag says team defense the key as Alab looks to start strong in ABL title series against Mono Vampire
Jimmy Alapag has a chance to claim a title in his first stint as head coach. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Alab Pilipinas had won twice over Mono Vampire in the regular season of the Asean Basketball League but coach Jimmy Alapag knows that it’s a different war altogether in the finals.

Alab hosts Mono opener of the best-of-five series on Sunday at the Sta. Rosa Multi Purpose Complex and Alapag expects a tough challenge from the visitors from Thailand especially after a rousing run in the playoffs.

“They’re playing really well. You look at the way (Jason) Brickman has upped his play in the playoffs, we have work cut out for us,” said Alapag.

“For us, kailangan right from the start we start the series strong. In a best of five series, the first game is what’s really more important. It’s important we get off to a strong start,” he added.

Alapag stated that both squads have changed a lot from the last time these two teams faced which resulted into an 86-84 victory over Alab in Bulacan.

In that game, Renaldo Balkman dominated 7-foot-5 import Samuel Deguara as he scored 31 points and 13 rebounds while also linking up with Justin Brownlee for the game winning play.

That’s all in the past now for Alapag.

“I think both squads are different teams now from when we played in the regular season. Both teams have really improved their play going into the playoffs. For us, right from the start we need to play at a high level, cause even if it’s a best of five, it’s still a short series,” said Alapag.

“They’re playing well. They have a lot of different weapons with Brickman finding guys and scoring in the quarterfinals, you have Deguara in the middle, 7’5, 300 plus pounds, Singletary who’s a great import, a former PBA import, and Paul Zamar who’s been impressive the whole season,” he added.

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“Again, we have our work cut out for us. The guys have been working hard and we’ve been preparing the best we can.”

While their Mono’s heritage imports in Jason Brickman and Paul Zamar will be the key match-ups for Alab in the perimeter, Alapag knows that their main cause of concern would still be Deguara, who towers over everyone in the paint.

As much as Balkman dominated him the first time, Alapag believes that it should be a team effort in containing the Maltese big man and limiting his production and touches.

“It won’t be si Balkman or JR (Alabanza) lang. Team defense has to guard Deguara. He’s 7’5, you can’t guard him with one person. You can’t double him because he sees above everybody else. It will be important for us as a team defensively that we stay in tune and have different guys around him to try and make him difficult around the paint.”

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