Xavier Alexander steals the show as Slingers confirm top-two spot
Swingman steals the show with a triple-double as Slingers confirm top-two spot
The Singapore Slingers confirmed their position in the top two of the Asean Basketball League standings yesterday, after sailing to a comfortable 76-52 home victory over the Kaohsiung Truth at the OCBC Arena.
The afternoon belonged to swingman Xavier Alexander, who notched his second triple-double of the season with a hat-trick of 12 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
After the match, it became clear to some 800 spectators how much the achievement meant to him, as he let out an ecstatic whoop and did a celebratory lap around the court.
However, the 1.98m-tall American insisted that the victory did not belong to him alone.
He said: "It speaks volumes of my resilience. I'll keep working hard.
"But I'm not playing for stats.
"On the court, I have deep confidence in my teammates - without them, there are no assists or rebounds."
Beaming after the game, Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang said: "I'm very happy with Alexander's contributions. This is what we need from him."
This win means that the Slingers, along with league leaders Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, are guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the play-offs.
Neo was delighted with his team's performance, particularly with their revitalised defence.
He said: "After so many games talking about improving the defence, we finally did it.
"I loved the energy and effort that they showed throughout the 40 minutes of the game, they need to keep it up and bring it forward to the play-offs."
But he also added: "In one-on-one containment, Kaohsiung killed us.
"Some of my players missed their men on that. We still need to keep building on it."
Truth's inability to convert most of their shots (32 per cent from the field, compared to the Slingers' 50 per cent) was the reason for their downfall.
Despite displaying excellent footwork and managing to drive into the paint repeatedly, they simply could not keep pace with the Slingers, who outscored the visitors in every quarter.
By half-time, the Slingers were already 44-32 up.
Alexander and centre Justin Howard, who finished with a game-high 24 points, moved up another gear in the second half to widen the gap even further.
The hosts' new Asean import Josh Urbiztondo also proved his worth, notching eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
While the Slingers may have a habit of losing leads late in their games, on this occasion, with a 62-41 lead going into the final quarter, they did not have much to worry about.
Five seconds before the final buzzer sounded, the Truth already began to shake their opponents' hands.
Although they have sealed a top-two spot, Neo stressed that this is not the time to take the eye off the ball.
The Slingers have two games remaining in the regular season, against Saigon Heat at home on March 19, and away on March 25.
Neo said: "We need to have mental toughness if we want to win the last two games.
"We want to take the winning momentum into the play-offs."