Malaysia's Dragons too good for Singapore Slingers; clinch Asean basketball title
Slingers flop in attack as Dragons win their first ABL crown
WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 77
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 65
- Dragons win the Asean Basketball League Finals best-of-five series 3-2
There was to be no happy ending in the Singapore Slingers' fairy-tale run to the all-or-nothing Asean Basketball League Finals series Game Five, as they crumbled to a 65-77 defeat by the Westports Malaysia Dragons.
Amid the blare of air horns and the humdrum of kompangs at the Maba Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, the Slingers won the tip-off and made the first basket through big centre Justin Howard, but that 2-0 lead was as good as it got for Neo Beng Siang's men.
The 2.11m Howard did his part with 27 points and 10 rebounds, although he played just four-of-10 minutes in the third quarter after picking up four personal fouls.
Filipino point guard Kris Rosales was also a rare bright spark with 22 points as the 250 travelling Slingers fans made themselves heard among the 2,500-strong crowd.
But no one else from the Slingers roster managed to get into double digits.
Swingman Xavier Alexander contributed only four points on two-for-11 shooting and fouled out with a little over three minutes to go.
Meanwhile, Wu Qingde and Wong Wei Long, heroes from Games One and Four, respectively, racked up a total of six points on shocking one-for-21 shooting.
The Slingers usually come up with handy and timely efforts from beyond the arc, but yesterday they shot a lowly two-for-15, compared to the Dragons' seven-for-13.
Simply put, they shot more but scored less.
"That hurt us, our poor offence killed us today," said coach Neo.
Wong added: "We were beaten by ourselves to a large extent. We made so many attempts that hit the back of the rim and did not fall."
The Singapore team did not just run into a brick wall, they also faced an in-form Dragons point guard Jason Brickman at the other end.
While all eyes were on their big centre Reginald Johnson (21 points, 10 rebounds), the suave Matthew Wright (16 points) and dunk master Calvin Godfrey (13 points, 12 rebounds), it was Brickman (below) who pulled the strings and was often left wide open to nail a game-high 22 points.
The 24-year-old also picked up seven rebounds and made seven assists en route to being voted the Finals series MVP, as the Dragons lifted their first ABL title.
"I didn't have a good Game Four with just six points. I had a week to think about Game Five and I wanted to come out aggressive and make more shots," said Brickman.
"It was great teamwork because we knew the Slingers were going to double-team Reg and Cal, which gave me more space and opportunities."
Charged up by an electrifying atmosphere, the Malaysian side were never in danger of losing as they had at least a nine-point cushion throughout the second half.
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia said: "Credit also goes to our defence which has been underrated. The Slingers are a great team who pushed us to the limit, but when all our players show up, we are always hard to beat."
Once the championship trophy was presented to the Dragons by Malaysia's sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin, there was time to reflect on the Slingers' incredible run to the Finals.
They were clear underdogs after signing only three imports - every other team recruited four - as part of a deliberate move to develop local talent.
The roster also featured four rookies as stalwarts Larry Liew and Russel Low left due to National Service and studies, respectively.
But marrying talent with teamwork, the Slingers played some great defence to take the championship battle right down to the wire against a stronger team.
Neo said: "We are disappointed with the result, but I'm proud of how the team have come all the way to this final game.
"It is by far the best result in Slingers' history."
Slingers captain Desmond Oh added: "We want to thank the fans for their tremendous support throughout this journey and we apologise for not being able to give them the win.
"We hope they will support us again next season because we have unfinished business."
"We were beaten by ourselves to a large extent. We made so many attempts that hit the back of the rim and did not fall."
— Singapore Slingers’ Wong Wei Long