Basketball: Slingers triumph in last-gasp thriller

As the buzzer goes at the end of the fourth quarter, Wong Wei Long (No. 5) launches the shot that broke the 73-73 deadlock against the Malaysia Dragons to seal Game 4 and level the best-of-five ABL Finals series.
As the buzzer goes at the end of the fourth quarter, Wong Wei Long (No. 5) launches the shot that broke the 73-73 deadlock against the Malaysia Dragons to seal Game 4 and level the best-of-five ABL Finals series.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Wong's buzzer-beater ties ABL Finals series at 2-2 as teams head back to KL for decider

He had a mediocre game by his usual lofty standards, scoring just eight points. Yet the last two of those points were the most important not just for Wong Wei Long, but also the Singapore Slingers.

For it was the 1.74m point guard's shot at the buzzer that gave the Slingers a crucial 75-73 win over Westports Malaysia Dragons in Game 4 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals yesterday.

The result at the OCBC Arena meant they tied the best-of-five series at 2-2 to force a final game.

With just 18.7 seconds left in the game, Kris Rosales held on to the ball and ran the clock down before attacking the basket. An open Wong received the pass before deftly dispatching the ball past Dragons' point guard Jason Brickman, sending his team-mates and the 2,505-strong capacity crowd into delirium.

Wong's heroics in the final quarter, in which he also scored two timely three-pointers, earned him his second man-of-the-match award in the ABL play-offs, despite team-mates Justin Howard (31) and Xavier Alexander (15) contributing the bulk of the team's points.

ON TARGET WHEN IT COUNTED MOST

I felt confident on my last shot, when it left my hand I felt so comfortable, I thought 'Oh man, we're going to Game 5'. I'm very happy with the result.

WONG WEI LONG, on scoring the dramatic winning basket for the Singapore Slingers.

The 27-year-old, who was recently named the ABL's Most Valuable Player (local) for the second season running, said: "I was the open man, so when Kris passed it to me, I had to get the job done.

"I felt confident on my last shot, when it left my hand I felt so comfortable, I thought, 'Oh man, we're going to Game 5'. I'm very happy with the result."

 

Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "We told him to just work on team defence and stop Brickman, he came back on and did a good job on that. Eight points in this quarter is big, that's why we got this win.

"The team stuck to the plan defensively, after the loss in Game 3 (on Friday) we really worked on doubling down on (Reginald) Johnson, it worked today."

Johnson, the Slingers' chief tormentor in Game 3 with 34 points, was frustrated by stoic defending and pressure from the raucous home fans. A tussle with Alexander - they had to be separated by team-mates - in the second quarter compounded his miserable outing, in which he scored just 12 points.

Eager to bounce back from Friday's poor display, the Slingers mostly led, but the margin never hit double digits.

A series of mistakes and rushed shots allowed the Dragons to claw back to 73-73, when Johnson converted the first of two free throws. Fortunately for the hosts, the usually reliable centre missed his second, before Wong stole the show.

Big man Howard bounced back from a wretched Game 3 (he scored a meagre five points) to top the overall scoring. He also had 13 rebounds. Calvin Godfrey (25) and Matthew Wright (23) led the visitors.

With Saturday's Game 5 back in the Dragons' lair in Kuala Lumpur, Slingers' assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "We've got to get more loose balls, they seem to have been beating us to that the whole series. When we get to Malaysia with their crowd, we need to rebound and get every loose ball, do what we need to do."

Dragons' coach Ariel Vanguardia was gutted by the manner of defeat, but maintained that there were positives to take from the game.

He said: "The good thing is we didn't give up, we were down most of the game but we kept the gap close.

"It (the loss) hurts, but it's not the end of the world. We're going home next, I hope to see the crowd behind us in the next game... we're going to protect our advantage."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Slingers triumph in last-gasp thriller'. Print Edition | Subscribe