By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Philippine-based hoops club Zamboanga Valientes was just sent packing by the Singapore Slingers, 97-87, during the do-or-die battle for the last semifinal spot of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Invitational last February 16, 2023, held in Vietnam.
Former NBA D-League standout Kentrell Barkley broke the hearts of Zamboanga after erupting in the most perfect time with an impressive 41-point outing built from 12/21 shooting from the field.
Barkley was all over the place shooting at will despite tight coverages deployed by the Zamboanga coaching staff.
The Valientes crew had a new lease in life after getting close to as much as three points, 77-74, early in the final canto but an offensive counter-run from the Slingers ballooned their lead back to double digits.
It was a difficult second half for Zamboanga after reinforcement ex-NBA champion Mario Chalmers was whistled for his fifth foul with two minutes remaining in the third period.
Without Chalmers’ veteran leadership inside the court, Zamboanga committed several miscues in their perimeter defense that gave up points from downtown.
Chalmers was having a great game in the first half but foul trouble halted his momentum and settled for 19 points, eight assists, and four steals.
Meanwhile, former San Miguel Beermen import and New York Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman top-scored for Zamboanga with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals but his impressive stat line wasn’t enough to lead the Valientes to the Top 4.
Zamboanga will be flying home to the Philippines after the ABL Invitational and will finalize its playing schedule once the list of the international hoop tournaments will be released.