Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010, – Here is what you need to know about the ABL Finals. Though occupying the two top spots in the ABL, the Philippine Patriots and Satria Muda BritAma got to the finals through significantly different routes. However all slates are clean now as we enter the finals.
Thursday, February 11, 2010 - This is it. After several months of grueling basketball action at the very highest level, the time has come to crown a champion of the very first ASEAN Basketball League.
As we embark on a best-of-five series between the Philippine Patriots and Satria Muda Britama, we come to once again acknowledge the fact that form is temporary and class is permanent. After all, both these countries have proudly sat atop the Southeast Asian rankings for a while now, Philippines occupying top spot and Indonesia a distance behind them in second place.
In any basketball competition featuring Southeast Asian teams, Philippines have been simply dominant much in part thanks to the fact that theirs is a basketball-crazy nation and have a very established program starting with juniors through to the only professional league in Southeast Asia.
Yes, they have had their blips along the way during the regular season including losing two of three to the Singapore Slingers and other teams. Yet in spite of those losses, they still managed to secure top spot of the league and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Their resources to call upon players cannot be matched in this region. Take for example their calling up of collegiate stars Nonoy Baclao and Elmer Esperitu four games into the season. No other team in the ABL has such an ability to pluck up impact players midseason.
Satria Muda Britama on the other hand have had to look deep within themselves and have travelled a much different road to the finals. While the Patriots comfortably saw off the KL Dragons 2-0, the Indonesian League champions underwent a true test of character after going down 1-0 to the Singapore Slingers.
They then had to overcome the loss of their key local forward Christian Sitepu to a season-ending injury. They did so by leveling the series with a comfortable home win against Singapore before travelling back to the LionCity and fighting off a spirited Slingers side to claim the finals berth.
Now, entering the finals as underdogs, Satria Muda will have it all to do. In order to surprise everyone, they will have to dig deep again and they will need their import duo Alex Hartman and Nakiea Miller to be at the very top of their game.
Hartman and Miller were instrumental in their game 3 victory over the Slingers in the previous round and if Satria Muda are to have any chance at all in this game, these two Americans will have to have the series of their lives.
Games 1 and 2 will be played in Manila, where the Patriots have not lost all season long. Their home domination has been in part down to the fact that they have the deepest bench in the ABL. At any given time, any of their players can step up to lead the team. And in Jason Dixon and the newly acquired Gabe Freeman, they have potentially the league’s most potent 1-2 punch.
In fact, since Freeman joined the Patriots after replacing the ousted Brandon Powell, the Filipino outfit have gone unbeaten in four games, a scary thought for Satria Muda coach Fictor Roring.
The most intriguing aspect of this series for all neutrals will be the match ups between Hartman and Miller and Dixon and Freeman. There is no doubt that whoever gets the upper hand here will have gone a long way towards helping their side clinch the title.
Maybe there is less pressure on Dixon and Freeman. As alluded to earlier, they may not feel such a scoring burden given the overwhelming firepower that exists on their bench in the form of their lethal local players.
Another indicator of where the title is headed may be the regular season series between the two sides. The Patriots were simply commanding in whitewashing the Indonesians three times and Satria Muda remain the only team not to have beaten the Patriots.
But yet, this is the playoffs. When the ball is tipped up tomorrow, all form and all previous records go out the window. The finals become a whole new ball game where character and determination will be at the forefront of each team’s desire to create history and become the first ever ABL champions.