Slingers return to winning ways
Alab Pilipinas' main man shackled again, this time by Slingers small forward Folkoff
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||ALAB PILIPINAS|
When the Singapore Slingers beat Alab Pilipinas 71-66 last month, swingman Xavier Alexander played a pivotal role in stifling former NBA Development League player Bobby Ray Parks Jr, limiting him to just 19 points.
When the two teams met again at the OCBC Arena yesterday, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang unexpectedly assigned small forward Mitchell Folkoff, instead of Alexander, to shackle Parks.
It proved to be a tactical masterstroke as Filipino-American Parks was limited to just 15 points yesterday as the Slingers eked out a 71-68 victory.
Just last week, Parks had scored a season-high 41 points in the 93-87 win over Kaohsiung Truth, so the Slingers did a good job in keeping Alab Pilipinas' main man quiet.
On a day of cold shooting - the Slingers converted 38 per cent of their field-goal attempts and just 22 out of 36 free-throws - defence was always going to be key.
"Mitch has a strong physique, and I didn't want Xavier to get into early foul trouble," explained Neo.
Folkoff did not just keep a lid on Parks, he also contributed seven points, three rebounds and two steals in front of a 1,893-strong crowd that formed long lines outside the OCBC Arena even after tip-off.
The 26-year-old former Singapore international, who returned to the Slingers roster after a three-season hiatus, said: "We have been switching things up during the week and I'm happy to play my part in what was really good team defence.
"To be honest, it was really hard to come back. Pre-season, I was struggling with the workload and the speed of the game and my legs were hurting. I was about to pull the plug.
"But, thanks to coach and MJ's (general manager and assistant coach Michael Johnson) encouragement, I'm glad I stuck to it and I'm getting back into the groove of things.
"We are all one big family. We play together, we play hard and we take care of business."
Folkoff's comeback story mirrors the Slingers' rebound from a disappointing defeat in their last match, in which they squandered a 13-point lead with just 104 seconds left to lose 97-95 to Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions in overtime on Dec 7.
Memories of that collapse came flooding back when the Slingers lost their 41-35 half-time advantage to allow Alab Pilipinas to pull ahead 43-41 in the third quarter.
But, this time, the Singapore side responded to Neo's instructions during their time-out, and opened up a 56-48 lead at the end of the third quarter.
"That was the turning point for us, we held up as a team," said Neo.
"We seem to need a reminder every time we get ourselves ahead, that we need to continue to go out strong. This time, we pulled through."
Folkoff was not the only local player to star in the narrow victory. Ng Han Bin reeled off two three-pointers en route to eight points, Leon Kwek posted seven points, while Wong Wei Long had four.
Delvin Goh also made a lively return after National Service enlistment, making full use of his week of block leave to train and chip in with two points and two rebounds.
Big American centre Justin Howard Alexander claimed 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Alexander also made a big impression by leading the scoring with 25 points, and making it five consecutive double-doubles with 12 rebounds.
With yesterday's victory, the Slingers improve to 4-1 to lead the Asean Basketball League.
The 28-year-old Alexander said: "We dropped one in the last game when we were up big and relaxed. We tried not to repeat that.
"Today's result is important because it shows our character. It was not easy because we had a long, 11-day break between the two games. Winning against strong opponents today shows we are tough."
The Slingers will get a chance to avenge their only defeat of the season when they take on Eastern in Hong Kong on Thursday, the start of four back-to-back games on the road.