The ASEAN Basketball League semifinals have yet to begin but the two Filipino teams are already eager for an all-Filipino finals.
Without downplaying their opponents for the upcoming final four clash, the top-seeded San Miguel Beermen and second-ranked AirAsia Philippine Patriots look forward to regaining the country’s supremacy in the league as they go into postseason play starting on May 26 and 27 respectively.
The Philippines lost the ABL crown last year when the inaugural titlist Patriots bowed to the Chang Thailand Slammers via sweep. It could be a different story this season.
The Beermen finished the regular season with a 17-4 record while the Patriots bounced back from that stinging setback last year by taking second with a 16-5 card to claim homecourt advantage in the semifinals.
“It’s going to be nice if (the finals) is going to be an all-Filipino showdown,” said San Miguel Beermen coach Bobby Parks in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum. “I’m happy that the Philippine teams are in the top two. It’s going to be good for Philippine basketball.”
“One thing’s for sure, if we both win our semifinal series, we will be bringing back the trophy here,” said AirAsia Philippine Patriots assistant coach Louie Gonzales.
Both teams admitted, however, that there is still work to be done before things can come into fruition in the best-of-three semifinals.
The Beermen will be facing the fourth-ranked Westports Malaysia Dragons, a team who beat them twice in the elimination round. The Patriots, meanwhile, face the much-improved third-seed Indonesia Warriors.
Parks said that they hope to slow down the Dragons’ imports Tiras Wade and Brian Williams, who do much of the scoring for the team coached by Filipino Ariel Vanguardia.
“Malaysia relies on their imports, they score a lot of points. You really can’t stop them from scoring but what we can do is slow them down,” Parks said.
The Patriots are wary about the Warriors, who defeated them at home last April 21, 104-79. During the season, Indonesia added Evan Brock and Filipino-American Stanley Pringle and their inclusion have paid off to an already stable team that includes last year’s Most Valuable Player Mario Wuysang.
“Those additions were really key for Indonesia. We have to slow them down because they can really make the difference for them,” said Gonzales, representing head coach Glenn Capacio in the forum.
Parks noted the importance of Game 1 of the best-of-three series.
“I’m not looking for a sweep but we are happy if we get one. The first game is the most important because it puts more pressure on the other because it’s a short series. All teams are really good so we just want to get that first game,” Parks said.
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