Wong emerges as Slingers' unlikely hero
Slingers pip Dragons, thanks to point guard whose late heroics forced overtime
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS|
He took almost 33 minutes to make his first field goal, a lay-up in the fourth quarter, after missing his first six attempts.
But, with the home team looking down and out, trailing the Westports Malaysia Dragons 59-54 with just 92 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Singapore Slingers point guard Wong Wei Long stepped up big time to haul the hosts out of trouble.
In front of a vociferous crowd at the OCBC Arena, the 29-year-old Asean Basketball League local MVP first drained a three-pointer before nailing another jumper with 51 seconds left to take the match into overtime, when the Slingers prevailed 78-77.
"Those three and two were big for us," said Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang after the match.
"We know what Wei Long is capable of, and he showed us again today.
"When players miss open shots, we can only encourage them and ask that they get back to the defensive end right away.
"If you have your head down, then nobody can help you. It was good that Wei Long remained confident of his abilities."
While Wong finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, he was shooting poorly in the first three quarters, claiming just three points from four free-throws.
He said: "I was trying to get going and, while I couldn't score as many points as I would have liked, I contributed rebounds and assists instead.
"As a veteran, my role is to organise the team well and create plays, which I enjoy. In the fourth quarter, I tried to drive to the hoop and draw fouls.
"We executed the team plays well with Xavier (Alexander) creating chances and Justin (Howard) providing the screens.Having the fans behind us all the way definitely helped, too."
Incredibly, the pulsating match then went into double overtime, after the Slingers blew a six-point lead in the first extra period.
The Dragons were also guilty of throwing away a five-point advantage in the see-saw battle, as Wong made two crucial free-throws with 37.2 seconds remaining to reduce the deficit to 77-76.
Slingers swingman Alexander then pickpocketed Dragons forward Skylar Spencer with 17 seconds left before latching on to Mitchell Folkoff's pass and scoring the winning basket.
The move left visiting coach Christopher Thomas fuming, chasing down and hurling profanities at the match officials after the final buzzer, as he felt there was a clear foul on Spencer.
That capped a dramatic match which started off with some sloppy defence and even more sluggish shooting - the Slingers' field-goal percentage was just 25.7 at half-time - before exploding late on.
The Dragons' imports contributed 69 out of the team's 77 points.
The effervescent Frederick Goldstein racked up 30 points, Spencer had 18 points and 17 rebounds, while Marcus Melvin lit up from behind the arc with five three-pointers en route to 21 points and 12 rebounds.
LOCALS STEP UP
The Slingers' local roster came alive at the death.
While Alexander (25 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and five steals) and Howard (22 points and 10 rebounds) were key, the likes of Leon Kwek backed up Wong with 10 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Desmond Oh and Folkoff were also in the points.
The result meant the Slingers also lifted the Straits Cup after beating the Dragons twice in the last three days.
"More than the cup, the late win gives us a psychological lift and improves our ABL record to 7-1," said Neo.
"Recovery will be key for us now before two tough games against Alab Pilipinas (away on Friday) and Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions (at home on Sunday)."