DAVAO -- Ray Parks Jr. still wasn’t doing much scoring on Sunday at the USEP Gym in Davao.
Fortunately for Alab Pilipinas, Robby Celiz delivered more than energy with his insertion into the starting lineup.
Parks only had eight points, but Celiz turned in his best game of the season and proved to be the long-awaited answer for the Eastern Long Lions as they scored a much-needed 82-75 win.
The scoring forward wound up with 17 points to lead the Filipinos to their first-ever win against the league-leaders in the 2016-2017 Asean Basketball League. In their previous three meetings, they lost by an average of 16 points.
Celiz’s move into the starting lineup also allowed import Sampson Carter to provide a boost off the bench as he contributed 20 points and seven rebounds.
Having dropped three in a row, and five of its last six, the decision was a much welcome development for the Philippines as it improved to 10-9.
The urgency was evident from the get-go for Alab as it went toe-to-toe with Hong Kong. They then took control in the final frame and built up a six-point advantage.
Still, Tyler Lamb and the Long Lions battled back with a 9-2 run that took the lead in their favor, 69-68, inside the last five minutes.
Showing more maturity, however, the Filipinos quickly countered with an 8-2 run of their own bookended by Celiz and Carter to keep Hong Kong at bay once and for all.
James Hughes posted a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double for the Philippines which formally forged a semifinals duel with second-seed Singapore.
On the other hand, the league-leaders suffered a second straight setback despite the best efforts of Marcus Elliott who had 22 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds.
Even with its first losing skid of the season, Hong Kong remains entrenched as the top-seed. It will wage war against Saigon in the Final Four.
ALAB PILIPINAS 82 – Carter 20, Hughes 17, Celiz 17, Parks Jr. 8, Acuna 6, Cawaling 4, Hubalde 3, Fortuna 3, Domingo 2, Mendoza 2
HONG KONG EASTERN LONG LIONS 75 – Elliott 22, Lamb 19, Lee 12, Chan 8, Fong 6, Guinchard 6, Wu 2, Tang 0, Lau 0
Quarter scores: 23-25, 38-43, 55-54, 82-75
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.