Slingers upbeat despite losing match
Saying they lost to themselves, coach Neo is very confident they will win Sunday's deciding home game
The Singapore Slingers took a step backwards in their bid for a semi-final spot in the Asean Basketball League play-offs yesterday, narrowly losing 80-78 to the Macau Black Bears, but coach Neo Beng Siang is still confident his team will make it.
With 25.7 seconds left, the score was tied at 78-78 after ABL all-time top scorer Xavier Alexander missed a crucial free- throw at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Centre in Guangdong, China.
Then Black Bears captain Mikhael McKinney dribbled past the Slingers defence to produce a stunning lay-up in the dying seconds to help his team claim the second leg of the best-of-three quarter-finals.
Neo said: "I hope they will be mentally prepared (for the decider on Sunday) but I'm still very confident we will win the game at home and advance to the semi-finals."
The Slingers had entered the game on a high after beating the Black Bears in the first leg at the OCBC Arena 102-91, starting with a strong defence.
But the Black Bears stepped up their attacking, ensuring the Slingers had only a one-point lead at 22-21.
Both sides maintained tight defences, making it difficult for either team to find the basket.
The Black Bears led 26-24, before McKinney picked up his third personal foul early in the second quarter.
The Slingers scored six points in his absence to regain their lead and, aided by passing errors by the Black Bears, extended their lead to 37-32 at half-time.
But playmaker McKinney returned for most of the second half, playing a key role as the Slingers were unable to keep up with their opponents' quick attacks.
The Black Bears outscored the Slingers 27-23 in the third quarter to cut their deficit to just one point.
The teams took turns leading in the fourth quarter, but tighter defence and sharper shooting by the Black Bears had them always on the front foot before McKinney sealed the win.
Alexander top-scored for the visitors with 27 points, followed by fellow American Jerran Young (19).
John Fields managed just 14 points, a far cry from his 31 in the home game.
Neo said his team will be working on improving their shooting accuracy, as they converted only 38 per cent of their field-goal attempts...
"Overall, I'm pretty disappointed with their performance the whole game.
"We did pretty well in the first half but we fell apart in the second half. I think we lost to ourselves."