Alab Pilipinas won their 3rd straight game in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) as they escaped the Saigon Heat, 95-87, on Sunday, January 28, at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The breathtaking 4th quarter saw both teams step up the pace in exchanging baskets. Josh Urbiztondo and Renaldo Balkman pinned down the lead they built from the 3rd quarter after making back-to-back baskets, 89-83, with 3:19 left in the game.
Maxie Esho sank two free throws to make it a one-possession game in the last 29.5 seconds of the game. The Saigon Heat's morale crumbled moments after as top scorer Moses Morgan was fouled out of the game. Tensions rose when Urbiztondo attempted a save near the sidelines, but a whistle was blown and the referees decided that the ball would stay with Alab Pilipinas. This caused a scuffle between Akeem Scott and a referee in the final 18.5 seconds.
Balkman iced the game by sinking two charities that sent the Saigon Heat to their 3rd straight loss.
Despite going down in the second quarter, Balkman topscored for Alab Pilipinas, recording a double-double of 26 points and 20 boards. Justin Brownlee scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Morgan led Saigon Heat with 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals, while Scott followed behind with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Maxie Esho recorded a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds and played all 40 minutes of the game.
The Saigon Heat got off to an early 8-point lead in the first quarter, as Alab attempted to keep up with the Vietnam club's pace. Urbiztondo sank two triples that allowed Alab to keep up with Saigon. Back-to-back baskets by Brownlee proved to be the spark that ignited Alab's 8-2 run, cutting the deficit to 1, 21-20, at the end of the first.
Balkman went back-to-back early in the second quarter, nabbing the lead for Alab. Both teams traded baskets until Morgan went on fire and drained back-to-back triples to widen their lead.
In the 2:03 mark of the second period, Balkman walked back to the locker room as he hurt his left shin after drawing a foul from Scott.
Morgan continued to power the offense of the Saigon Heat to close out the second quarter, allowing him to tally 21 points at the half.
Balkman was back on the court at the start of the second half and Urbiztondo managed to drain a game-tying three at the 8:56 mark of the 3rd quarter. Alab continued to lock down the Saigon Heat, leaving them scoreless in the first two and a half minutes of the period. Bobby Ray Parks Jr's runner took the lead and Brownlee followed by converting a spin move (51-47).
The Saigon Heat rallied back with a 6-2 run in the dying minutes of the 3rd, capitalizing on the back-to-back unsportsmanlike fouls by Alab Pilipinas. Horace Nguyen tried to sink a buzzer-beating triple to trim the deficit to 4 as the clock died out, but it was not counted by the referees.
Alab Pilipinas improved their record to 6-4, while the Saigon Heat fell to 4-5 in the ABL standings.
Alab (95) – Balkman 26, Brownlee 25, Domingo 14, Urbiztondo 13, Parks 10, Hontiveros 3, Maierhofer 2, Celiz 2, Raymundo 0, Alabanza 0, Javelona 0, Sumalinog 0, Johnson 0.
Saigon (87) – Morgan 27, Scott 26, Esho 23, Williams 9, Arnold 2, Ho. Nguyen 0, T. Nguyen 0, To 0, Le 0, Hu. Nguyen 0.
Quarter scores: 20-21, 42-47, 70-63, 95-87.