THE Philippine Patriots should firm up its defense if it is serious to bag the first Asean Basketball League (ABL) crown, team officials said.

“We have to bring our A-game to beat them again, but it’s important that we beat them soundly. That way, we’ll be going to Jakarta for Game 3 with our confidence as high as the sky,” said RP Patriots co-team owner Mikee Romero.

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The Patriots took the series opener, 78-68, last Friday at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City but Romero, who watched the game along with co-team owner Tonyboy Cojuangco, noticed several flaws on the team’s defense.

“I’m happy we won Game 1 but there are things that we need to improve. Our defense was inconsistent, we need to correct it,” said Romero. “If we play that kind of defense, we can’t sweep them.”

Game 2 is set at the Arena in San Juan City today at 8 p.m. (February 17) as the Patriots eye for a sweep at home before heading to Jakarta for Game 3.

For his part, Coach Louie Alas said he kept on reminding his wards that defense wins games or even championships.

“We were very inconsistent defensively in Game One. Our job will be a lot easier if we can be consistent on the defensive end," he said.

Romero, the CEO and president of the Harbour Centre, also challenged the locals to step up and avoid dependency on the imports.

“We’re playing for our flag and country so it’s imperative that we play with lots of pride and fire,” said Romero. “When you play for your country, you should treat the game as if it is a do-or-die game.”

Alas nods in agreement. “My worry is the players’ tendency to rely too much on the scoring abilities of our imports. They feel if we can outscore our rival we can win but the true barometer of this team is defense and I hope they will learn from this experience," he said.

On its first Finals meeting against the visiting Satria Muda BritAma of Indonesia, the Patriots blew a seven-point halftime lead and allowed the visitors to take a 56-50 lead early in the third canto.

The tide only changed after the Patriots spurt a 12-2 run and dictated the game in the pay off period as Freeman, Dixon, Rob Wainwright, and Erwin Sta. Maria led the teams' tenth win at home.

Freeman, a prized former import in the PBA, exploded for a league-high 39 points on top of 14 rebounds, two steals, one assist and a block.

Dixon, another former PBA reinforcement, meanwhile posted his 14th double-double performance in 15 games in the league with 13 points and 17 rebounds. He also made three assists, two steals and two shotblocks. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)