AirAsia Philippine Patriots vs Chang Thailand Slammers

AirAsia Philippine Patriots coach Louie Alas’ mantra against the Chang Thailand Slammers in their best-of-three title series is pure and simple –- only one night in Bangkok.

And that’s the reason why they need to start strong and play tough defensively in the opening of their AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Season 2 title series Sunday in Bangkok.

“We have to play consistently from start to finish and we’ve got no margin for error,” said Alas before departing for Bangkok Friday.

“In a short title series like this, you have to give your best shot right away.”

While he expects the series to be tough and exciting, Alas wants it to be a short one since going back to Bangkok for Game 3 could be disastrous, saying: “It’s very hard to beat a home team on judgment day, many factors will come into play.”

Besides, it’s sweeter to win a title via a sweep just like what the team that’s co-owned by Harbour Centre CEO Mikee Romero and Tony Boy Cojuangco –- did against Indonesia’s Satria Muda BritAma in winning the inaugural championship last year.

Like in their semis series with the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, Alas said local players like Egay Billones, Junjun Cabatu, Chito Jaime, Benedict Fernandez, JP Alcaraz and Warren Ybanez should double their effort to ease off the pressure from imports Gabe Freeman and Steve Thomas.

The high-leaping Freeman understands the situation very well and he’s willing to sacrifice again just to ensure the team’s success.

“If Egay and Bene (Fernandez) make their shots, then we have a good chance of winning the championship again. But for us to win, we have to play solid defensively,” said Freeman, who averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game in the elims.

It’s not just Freeman and Thomas’ numbers that are impressive. The pair is the one that set the tone and vibes for the team which team manager Erick Arejola acknowledges.

“Their leadership skills are evident on the court, they’re the ones coaxing their teammates to exert more effort,” Arejola said, adding that the team will be missing forward 6-foot-7 Alex Crisano, who hurt his right Achilles tendon during practice last Wednesday. (PNA)

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