Slingers seek revenge against Eastern Long Lions
Coach Neo demands full concentration to avoid losing to the Eastern Long Lions again
|HONG KONG EASTERN LONG LIONS||SINGAPORE SLINGERS|
At the Southorn Stadium in Hong Kong tonight, the Singapore Slingers have only one thing on their mind: Revenge.
The wound from that painful defeat by the Eastern Long Lions, at the same ground, is still raw.
In that Asean Basketball League (ABL) match about a fortnight ago, the Slingers looked to be cruising to an easy win, holding a 90-77 lead with just 104 seconds to go.
But they somehow blew the advantage and lost 97-95 in overtime.
Eastern scored an impressive 13 three-pointers compared to five from the Slingers, who also committed 28 turnovers, 16 more than their opponents.
For tonight's match, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang has demanded full concentration from his players, from the first minute to the last.
He said: "We threw the game away and that really hurt us.
"It was one of those games where we did well in offence, but failed to execute good defence when we needed it most.
"We need to protect the ball better and limit their three-pointers.
"I want us to be switched on for the full 40 minutes."
That loss has been the only blemish to their season.
Despite a thin roster, having one less import than the four allowed, and having to cope with National Service commitments and injuries, the Slingers have looked impressive.
Their fine 4-1 start to the season does not surprise Neo, who attributed it to the tough pre-season fitness regimen that had some players vomiting and on the verge of throwing in the towel.
He said: "We ran slopes, staircases, resistance hill sprints at the Bukit Batok Nature Park three times a week for two weeks.
"It was tough, but it is paying off now because we are happy with the stamina we have got to finish off games.
"Of course, 5-0 would have been better than 4-1, but it is what it is and it will be good if we can close the year on 5-1."
The Slingers' fitness and stamina were crucial in their two narrow victories (71-66 and 71-68) over a strong Alab Pilipinas over the past month.
While he has set a target of winning their first ABL title, Neo refused to believe that it will be down to the Slingers and fellow favourites Eastern.
Said Neo, whose team came within one match of winning their first ABL title last season: "Alab Pilipinas have shown they are a strong team too.
"Saigon Heat are missing their Defensive Player of the Year Christien Charles who should lift them when he's back, Kaohsiung Truth are picking up and Westports Malaysia Dragons are starting to win.
"There are no easy games and it's still early in the season. Anything can happen."
The crunch will come in the next two months, when the Slingers face two punishing stretches of four games in 10 days.
This is when Neo hopes the team's outstanding stamina will come through, while he also looks forward to the return of forward Wu Qingde and guard Larry Liew from a knee and hamstring injury respectively.
He added: "Of our imports, Justin (Howard) and Xavier (Alexander) have been consistently contributing double-doubles, so I'm pretty happy with that.
"I want them to stay calm and be role models for their teammates instead of getting frustrated at the end of tight games.
"Alli (Alexander Stanley Austria) has had a slow start, but he is trying his best to get used to our system.
"Our local players are capable, but they need be more consistent."