Slingers' buzzer-beating 75-73 win forces Game Five
Slingers guard Wong sinks clutch shot to beat buzzer and force Game Five
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 75
WESTPORTS M'SIA DRAGONS 73
- Best-of-five finals tied at 2-2
Never, ever, give up before the last second.
For the first three quarters during Game Four of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals series, Singapore Slingers point guard Wong Wei Long had a game to forget, picking up more personal fouls than points in the must-win match.
The 27-year-old had zero points and four personal fouls, just one away from sitting out for good in yesterday's match against Westports Malaysia Dragons.
But Wong is the reigning two-time ABL MVP (local) for a reason, and he made a memorable clutch two-pointer right at the death to help his team win 75-73 before a fanatical full-house crowd at the OCBC Arena Hall 1 to take the series to the wire.
Game Five will be played on Saturday, 2.30pm, at the Maba Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Incredibly, Wong was three-for-three in the final quarter, nailing two three-pointers as well to play a crucial role in the heart-stopping victory which had all 2,500 fans on the edge of their seats.
"With just 19 seconds left, the plan was to pass ball to Kris (Rosales) to run down the clock because the shot clock was dead," he said.
"Kris made the penetration and I was the open man. When I got the ball, there was no hesitation. I pulled away from (Jason) Brickman for the jumper.
"They may have wiped out our lead, but we never gave up before the last second.
"We are a real team. Although I didn't score earlier, my teammates Justin (Howard), Xavier (Alexander) and (Wu) Qingde did. Everyone contributed, be it in offence or defence."
After the 72-90 blowout in Game Three, the Slingers, in particular big centre Howard, came out with all guns blazing.
The American rebounded from Friday's disastrous 13 per cent conversion to drain 72.2 per cent of his field goal attempts yesterday for a game-high 31 points.
Although they held the lead for all but two minutes of the game, it was mostly by small margins, as the dangerous Dragons always looked like they could steal home the trophy.
Dragons MVP (world import) Reginald Johnson was thrown off in his running feud with Slingers swingman Alexander and shot just three-for-11 for 12 points, but forward Calvin Godfrey (25 points) and swingman Matthew Wright (23 points) stepped up.
On paper, the visitors may appear stronger because they have four imports compared to the Slingers' three but, yesterday, the hosts were greater than the sum of their parts.
A grinning Howard said: "The team believed in me more than I believed in myself.
"I scored 31 points, but Kris played great defence, Xavier stayed out of foul trouble when we needed him and Wei Long came up big for us with the winner.
"That's the point of the team. That's why we have five on the court and 13 in our team."
After masterminding the Slingers' fourth win over regular-season winners Dragons this term, ABL Coach of the Year Neo Beng Siang has no doubt that the ultimate victory will come on the back of good defence.
Neo said: "We wanted to finish the series here but, after losing Game Three, we are happy to have Game Five.
"Our defence was on and off today, and we need to work on it.
"If we want to create history and win our first ABL title, our players need to stay disciplined and play the game of their lives."