Singaporean Wong Wei Long denies Slingers at the death
Knights guard delivers killer blow as Singapore side let victory slip
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||CLS KNIGHTS INDONESIA|
CLS Knights win best-of-five series 3-2
One of the cruellest things in sport is to be so close to the ultimate prize, and then have it ripped from you.
In the last minute.
That was exactly what the Singapore Slingers experienced last night, as they lost 84-81 to CLS Knights Indonesia in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals title-decider despite leading for more than 36 minutes of the 40-minute affair.
In the end, the Knights won the best-of-five series 3-2 in front of 3,143 fans at the OCBC Arena.
The heartbreaking loss means the Slingers have now lost three Finals in four years and their hunt for that elusive first ABL title continues into the 10th season next term.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang, who was as desolate as his team - who were in tears, said: "I blame myself for not being able to take the team over the line.
"We had a 10-point lead with nine minutes to go, it was money in the pocket and we gave them the chance to come back.
"We are really disappointed because we led for most of the game, but gave up an open three at the crucial moment. But at the end of the day, I'm proud of everyone's contribution, from the players to the fans."
The Slingers had come out like men on a mission and led at the end of each of the first three quarters.
Local power forward Delvin Goh was exemplary with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the first three periods, Larry Liew was keeping a lid on Knights dangerman Doug Herring Jr and Xavier Alexander was in triple-double mood (23 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) for the Slingers.
With Herring Jr and Maxie Esho, who had just two points in the first half, reaching four fouls for the Knights early in the final quarter, the Slingers looked like they had one hand on the trophy as they led 70-60 with nine minutes to go.
But the visitors started clawing their way back and, ironically, it was former Slingers guard Wong Wei Long who delivered the dagger to the heart with the go-ahead three-pointer to make it 82-79 to the Knights with just 57 seconds left, marking the point of no return for the Slingers.
Said Knights coach Brian Rowsom: "We just played good zone defence in the last five minutes, made the Slingers shoot from the outside because we felt they were penetrating quite easily, and, on the offensive end, we also made big shots.
"Wong Wei Long making the winning shot against his old team feels like poetic justice.
"At the start of the season, we just wanted to make the playoffs and, now, we have won the title. This win is for the whole of Indonesia."
Wong added: "I wasn't playing so well, but we ran through the set-play our coach wanted and, when Doug passed the ball to me, I knew I could do it and I did it.
"I was super excited because when I made it, I knew we would win.
"I'm really emotional because my parents, wife, brother and sister-in-law are all here to support me, and my family has been flying in and out of Singapore to support me during my seven months with the Knights.
"I feel sorry for my old team Slingers because they are a very good defensive team, very aggressive and they worked so hard to get to three Finals in four seasons, which shows how consistent they are.
"It was really neck-and-neck, and sometimes you need a bit of luck to win the championship."