Alexander spurs Slingers to sizzling win
American posts game-high 27 points as team notch first win of the season
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||CLS KNIGHTS INDONESIA|
Man-of-the-Match Xavier Alexander was beaming, delighted with a richly deserved win and the role he played in the Singapore Slingers' 77-66 victory over CLS Knights Indonesia yesterday.
"I told you I'll be back and more," said the 29-year-old swingman, the excitement in his tone in stark contrast to that of two Fridays ago.
Back then, the mood was so different, after a lacklustre display in an 83-59 away drubbing at Chong Son Kung Fu Basketball Club.
At the OCBC Arena yesterday, Alexander was a man on a mission and played like one, as his game-high 27 points (with nine rebounds and seven assists) helped the Slingers to their first Asean Basketball League win of the season.
He was in irresistible form, taking advantage of a one-on-one mismatch against Knights guard Freddie Goldstein and finding form when the team had their back against the wall - nine of his 27 points came in the final quarter as the Slingers came from behind to snatch victory.
Alexander said: "I'm ready for the responsibility. I'm conditioned for whatever it takes to contribute to this team.
I’m ready for the responsibility. I’m conditioned for whatever it takes to contribute to this team.Yesterday’s man-of-the-match Xavier Alexander on being the main man for the Singapore Slingers
"The big difference from the first game was we were not waiting for the game to unfold. We went out there and we were the aggressors and, eventually, we wore them down."
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang hailed the player not just for his skills, but also his durability in a sapping encounter.
He said: "It's tough to play all 40 minutes, but his strengths are to push and run, and attack the basket. This is what we want from him and he delivered."
The final score suggests a comfortable win for the hosts, yet it was anything but that.
Perhaps motivated by the sight of a snaking queue to the arena right up to tip-off, the Slingers seemed pumped up to make amends for their season-opening defeat in Nanhai last week and got off to a 6-0 start.
But their woeful free-throw conversion rate of just 40 per cent allowed the Knights a way back and it was the visitors who led 34-29 at the halfway mark.
The Knights' new signing, Evan Brock, was a thorn in the flesh, ending the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
The turning point came at the end of the third quarter, during which the Knights still led by four points with 1.4 seconds left.
With the Slingers in possession, Alexander popped the ball into the paint and centre Ryan Wright tipped it in at the buzzer to narrow the deficit to 58-56 and rouse the Slingers fans.
Tails up, the home side made another fine 6-0 start to a superb final quarter which they eventually won 21-8, thanks to their up-tempo and high-pressing game, before seeing out the match expertly.
Wright was a crowd pleaser with his dunks en route to 21 points and 13 rebounds, while the Slingers' local roster also chipped in with 25 points and 17 rebounds. Forward Russel Low led the way with 10 points and four rebounds.
Neo said: "I told them we played poorly in parts in the first three quarters - there were even some air balls - but we were still just two points behind, so I encouraged them to be more confident.
"It's a good thing Xavier stepped up and the local players took turns to make baskets. We also limited the threat of their locals (who failed to make a single two-point field goal and scored just three triples).
"We are relieved to pick up our first win, but we are not satisfied. We play Alab Pilipinas away on Wednesday and we are aiming to be in the top two by Christmas."
Off the court, the Slingers also netted their first big cash sponsorship deal with Under Armour Sports.
Slingers general manager Michael Johnson said: "We are glad to have Under Armour on board as a partner with the team for this season and look forward to growing the sport and our homegrown talent even further in the coming years."
Under Armour Sports marketing director Yvonne Tey added: "We hope to work in tandem with the Slingers to boost the sport in Singapore and bring social value to the community."