Unbeaten Singapore Supras secure SBL title
Singapore Supras clinch SBL title to cap unbeaten season
They headed into the final with a 15-0 unbeaten record, and the Singapore Supras capped off their "invincible" season by claiming the 2016 Pro-Am Singapore Basketball League (SBL) title yesterday.
Watched by 1,000 spectators at the Delta Sports Complex, the Supras trounced surprise packages GHUB Sports Club 78-53 in the final to be the first team in the SBL's three-year history to finish a season undefeated.
Launched in December 2013, the SBL is a 12-team semi-professional league played over five months. It is the brainchild of former Serbian basketballer Zoran Vasiljev, now a Singaporean.
The league has seen more than 24,000 visitors to games in the past five months, and boasts 260 registered players with 18 imported players and coaches.
Supras forward Jemell Swafford put in a stellar performance yesterday as he finished with a game-high 23 points and added seven rebounds, seven steals and four assists.
"It's hard enough to play the game of basketball, but to go undefeated and try to set a record that's never been done here, you kind of feel like the (Golden State) Warriors," said 30-year-old Swafford, referring to the NBA defending champions, who are two wins away from beating the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins.
"There's a lot of pressure because everybody is waiting for you to slip up so they can say, 'I told you they weren't good enough'."
Swafford paid tribute to GHUB, the rookie team who defeated last season's runners-up AMK Bravehearts 80-74 in the semi-finals.
"They're a really good team and I'm proud of their imports and organisation because a lot of people didn't think they would go all the way to the final," he said.
"I tip my hat off to them."
The Supras, conquerors of defending champions Falcons Basketball in the semi-finals, were never really threatened as they led throughout the match, with Swafford proving to be a powerful presence up front.
The American also showed off his all-round game by posting four steals as his team entered half-time with a whopping 22-point lead.
After the break, Swafford and guard Spencer Templeton were simply unstoppable for the Supras, combining for 40 points.
Supras coach Sergei Belyakov praised his charges for executing his game plan to perfection.
"Normally, Swafford is our go-to guy and he has a very peculiar ability to find the ball under the bucket. We feed him all the time as he's also a prolific shooter and a good stealer," said the American.
"(Centre) Kyle Jeffers also did everything he's supposed to today; lots of rebounds and lots of open shots, especially in the paint."
Belyakov played down the lopsided scoreline, saying that it was a very "intense" game.
"The three imports in GHUB kept the pace going, but we designed a plan to defend against them and that's why they didn't score as much as they normally do," he added.
"We balanced three-point shooting and bringing the ball inside really well, so I'm very happy the guys fulfilled the task I asked them to."