Slingers edge see-saw contest by a point
Coach Neo turns emotional after his side's narrow win over Malaysian rivals
It almost seemed like it was never going to end.
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS|
The Singapore Slingers and Westports Malaysia Dragons went back and forth on the scoreboard, point after point, foul after foul.
But after a game that spilled into two overtime periods, it was the Slingers who emerged with a 90-89 victory yesterday.
When the final buzzer sounded, the 1,000-strong crowd at the OCBC Arena burst into cheers as fans rushed down to embrace their heroes on the court.
Amid all that, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang briefly congratulated his men before rushing off to the team's changing room.
After composing himself, he later re-emerged to speak to The New Paper.
With reddened eyes and in between sniffles, an emotional Neo said: "I'm happy with the win, but it was more a relief for me.
"There was more and more pressure on me, especially if we didn't protect our home-court advantage.
I’d feel sorry that they came all the way to support us, and if we didn’t. .. win.Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang, on his obligation to the fans
"From my club, my boss and even the fans. I'd feel sorry for them that they came all the way to support us, and if we didn't give them our best and win for them."
The Slingers have a win-loss record of 1-3 at home. Yesterday was the first of the Slingers' six straight home games and Neo believes that it has set the tone for their coming ties.
The 56-year-old said: "We need to protect our home court. The win was also like a redemption to the fans.
"It's definitely a very positive start. We're now on top of the Dragons, so we need to stay focused because a tough game against Alab (Pilipinas) is coming up (on Sunday) and we really need to get ourselves together."
The Slingers, who had also defeated the Malaysian side 95-81 in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday, also retained the Straits Cup after yesterday's game.
The trophy is contested between the Causeway rivals in the Asean Basketball League.
Despite the win, Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson was still unhappy with the team's performance.
The Slingers got off to a brisk start, carving a 20-19 lead in the first quarter, before extending it to 44-29 at half-time.
The Dragons did not let them off easily and bounced back into the game with an 18-point streak.
Ng Han Bin downed a three-pointer to end the visitors' spell and gave the Slingers an eight-point advantage by the end of the third quarter.
Things got rocky in the final quarter and the Dragons made their rivals slog before eventually catching up at the final second to level at 72-72, resulting in overtime.
But one additional period could not separate both sides.
At 81-81, the two teams entered second overtime, during which the Dragons led by six points at one stage.
The Slingers were not about to sink to another home loss, though. At 89-89, with 22 seconds left, the Dragons' Ivan Yeo was pressured into committing a a personal foul on Xavier Alexander, who scored from one of the two free-throws given.
Johnson said: "We had a very good first half and came into the third quarter playing somewhat selfishly.
"We're still lacking the consistency that costs us many of our games."
He added: "For the three losses we had at home, we could have been in a position to win every one of them.
"But today, we hung in there and we got a one-point win, which we'll take, although we're still not happy with what we're doing over a 40-minute period.
"We still have to get a heck of a lot better if we're going to contend for the championship again this year."