MANILA -- Gabe Freeman produced a performance worthy of his MVP status as the Philippines Patriots blasted Indonesia’s Satria Muda BritAma, 78-68, and gained a head start in their best-of-five title series in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig.
The 6-foot-5 Freeman exploded for 39 points, including six in a vicious 12-2 run at the start of the payoff period to finally pull away from the tough defending Indons.
Freeman also had 12 rebounds and a crucial steal to help the Patriots beat the Indons for the fourth straight time dating back the triple-round elims.
The Patriots, co owned by Harbour Centre owner Mikee Romero and Tonyboy Cojuangco, controlled the first half but fell behind by six points, 56-50, in the third quarter as Alex Hartman and Nakiea Miller imposed their will inside the shaded lane.
But Freeman found his second wind, coming through with a three-point play and a booming trey to tie the game at 56-all before taking 60-58 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
"It was a hard win because Indonesia really played well defensively," said RP Patriots coach Louie Alas. “We just have to sustain the momentum to take advantage of our homecourt advantage.
"As I said before, we can't take the Indons lightly," said Romero.
Rob Wainwright sealed the win for the Patriots with a triple, 78-67, with a little over a minute left.
With Freeman scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, the Patriots took a 48-41 halftime lead.
Freeman, a former PBA Best Import, actually scored the chunk of his points in the first quarter when he fired 15 points that saw him knock in two three-pointers while Erwin Sta Maria nailed two treys for eight points.
The Patriots made 50-percent of their shots (18-of-36) and made 7-of-17 three-point attempts while taking a 34-26 lead on a Warren Ybanez trey with 5:35 to go in the second period.
Satria Muda BritAma imports Nakiea Miller and Alex Hartman made 10 points each and the Indonesians were behind by as low as three points, 38-35, with 3:43 to go on a driving layup by Youbel Sondakh.
RP Patriots 78 - Freeman 39, Dixon 13, Wainwright 9, Sta Maria 8, Ybanez 5, Alcaraz 2, Espiritu 2, Baclao 0, Gaco 0, Coronel 0, Acuna 0.
Satria Muda Britama 68 - Miller 22, Hartman 12, Wuysang 11, Gunawan 10, Sondakh 9, Achmad 3, Wijaya 1, Frihantono 0, Sitomobang 0.
Quarters: 23-19; 48-41; 60-58; 78-68.