Slingers hold their nerves
Singapore side recover from poor start to rally strongly against the Dragons for an overtime victory
WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 110
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 113 (OT)
In their 73-71 home loss to Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions last Sunday, the Singapore Slingers relinquished a 20-point lead in the third quarter and American centre Justin Howard failed to send the game into overtime after missing the final shot of the game.
Last night, though, Neo Beng Siang's men held their nerves to get back to winning ways, after beating the Westports Malaysia Dragons 113-110 in overtime at the Gem In Mall at Cyberjaya, Malaysia.
The visitors had a sluggish start to the game, with several Slingers slipping on court and frequently robbed of the ball, while Dragons' import Kiwi Gardner, who arrived only on Wednesday, was growing in influence.
While the first quarter ended 21-21, the irrepressible 23-year-old American point guard starred in the second quarter and was virtually involved in every play in that period, as the Dragons went into half-time 52-43 up.
"Gardner is really killing us, we need to come out and work harder on that, and see how we can stop him from going to the basket," said Slingers coach Neo in a television interview at the interval.
"We need to come out strong in our team defence and rotation and, offensively, we need to attack the basket."
Neo's message must have been delivered to his players in the third quarter, as the Slingers came out with all guns blazing with their full-court press.
The high-pressure game, along with a fast-tiring Gardner being taken off, swiftly gave the visitors the initiative as they scored 32 points to go into the last quarter with a 75-68 lead.
While Desmond Oh and Co. extended their lead to 10 points early in the last 10 minutes, the Dragons began to fight back.
The hosts slowly chipped away at the advantage, with Gardner taking the court again, despite suffering a thigh injury in the last period.
The Malaysian side looked on course for a narrow victory over their Causeway rivals, leading 99-97 with 10.5 seconds to go, but Slingers swingman Xavier Alexander forced the game into over-time with a last-gasp shot under the basket.
The Slingers seized the initiative early in time added-on, with the Dragons benching Gardner and missing Joshua Munzon, who had fouled out.
Gardner eventually rejoined the fray midway through the five-minute extra period to drive the Dragons on.
But the diminutive point guard could do little in the end, as the Slingers managed to hold their nerves for a 113-110 victory.
Alexander scored a team-high 34 points, while fellow American import Howard and Singaporean forward Ng Han Bin had 32 and 13 points respectively.
Despite the win, the Slingers are still second in the six-team Asean Basketball League table with a 0.769 win-loss percentage.
Hong Kong, which did not play yesterday, remain on top with a 0.777 win percentage.
The Slingers are back in action again tomorrow, when they face the Alab Pilipinas at the OCBC Arena.