Sunday, January 23, 2011

Patriots a win away from return trip to ABL finals

The Philippine Patriots rode on the red-hot shooting of Gabe Freeman to outlast the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, 88-83, Sunday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City, and move a step closer to earning a return trip to the finals of the ASEAN Basketball League.

Inspired by the presence of his family, the 6-foot-5 Freeman finished three assists short of completing a rare triple-double performance after exploding for 36 points and hauling down 11 rebounds in Game 1 of the best-of-three semis series.

The two-time Best Import winner in the PBA was at his best in the payoff period where he strung up seven straight points, including a booming three-point shot that gave the Patriots an 82-73 lead with 2:53 remaining.

Freeman also played rock-solid on defense as he held Justine Leith to one free throw in the fourth after the counterpart import had led the Dragons earlier. 

With Leith at the firing end, the Dragons took a 51-49 lead. He had 25 points at the end of the third period, but was shackled in the fourth by Freeman's tenacious defense.

“Gabe was really inspired today. He was fantastic today," said coach Louie Alas. “Defensively, he was awesome in the final period."

The defending champions can wrap up the series with another win on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite the win, Alas said they have to raise their defensive toughness a notch higher in Game 2. “The Dragons are really tough, you have to give your best against them," he stressed.

They have also shown their resiliency.

Two weeks ago, the Dragons handed the Patriots their worst beating, 92-74. On Sunday, they refused to give up the fight as they crawled their way back to within 83-86 on a completed three-point play and a triple by Nakiea Miller.

The Dragons had the opportunity to cut the deficit further, but they failed to give up a duty foul right away to stop the clock, allowing the Patriots to dribble away the remaining seconds. - KY, RCJ, GMANews.TV

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