Singapore Slingers recover to win in overtime
Slingers struggle in regulation but American stars deliver in overtime
ASEAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 63
PILIPINAS MX3 KINGS 57
When Elorde Juan Nicolas sank a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left on the clock, it sparked delirium among his Pilipinas MX3 Kings teammates at the OCBC Arena.
The score stood at 56-54 and all of a sudden, the high-flying Singapore Slingers, lying second in the six-team Asean Basketball League (ABL), were staring at defeat at home by a side that were propping up the table.
With their six-game winning streak hanging by a thread, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang called for a time-out to calm nerves, as well as to ensure everyone out on court would be in sync for the final shot.
In a heart-stopping finale, the Slingers' Filipino guard Kris Rosales received the ball upon the restart, sent his opponent the wrong way and calmly sank a two-pointer just as the buzzer sounded.
There was some confusion, though, with players from the Kings furious, especially Nakiea Miller and captain Arizona Reid, who insisted that Rosales' shot had gone after the buzzer.
After much heated protest and some discussion with officials, the Slingers' final basket stood and the match went into overtime.
Seemingly sparked into life, the Slingers' star American imports Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander, anonymous for much of the match in regulation, scored all seven points in the five-minute overtime to haul the home team over the line 63-57.
The beaten Kings were cordial after the match, although Miller and Reid exchanged some words with the officials before the team quickly exited the OCBC Arena.
Alexander, 26, said: "The whole game was controversial. (Rosales' shot) was a good shot. They made a good one, we made a good one. We ended up being able to get it together in overtime and come away with a win."
Speaking to The New Paper later, Neo said: "What I saw was he (Rosales) released the ball before the lights went off (on the back board, signalling the end of the match), so the shot should have counted."
While relieved, Neo was "pretty pissed off" at the way his charges started the match.
He said: "It is all about complacency, because of the winning streak, I guess. Their body language told me they were not ready to come out and play.
"When we started off we were sloppy at both ends, and not really running together as a team both ends."
The Slingers trailed at half-time before forward Wu Qingde sunk five three-pointers in the third quarter to pull the hosts back into the game.
"At the point of time I was so tired, but my teammates gave me the confidence and I took the shot when I was open," said the 23-year-old, who led the Slingers' scoring table yesterday with 21 points.
With the result the Singapore team went top of the ABL table after 10 games, leapfrogging overnight leaders Hi-Tech Bangkok City, who have a game in hand.
City will look to reclaim top spot on Wednesday when they face Saigon Heat at home, before travelling to Singapore to face the Slingers on Sunday.
Eager to prevent a repeat of yesterday's slackness in the top-of-the-table clash next weekend, Neo has promised his players "a hard week" ahead in training.
He said: "Training will be full on; we really need to emphasise what we need to do. There is not a chance for them slack and have it easy."
- Additional reporting by AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD