2015-16 Asean Basketball League Finals

Malaysia's wounded Dragons patched and ready to take on the Slingers

Hosts want revenge for Game 4 loss, but the Slingers are equally confident for final game

Playing your heart out, putting your body on the line, and then losing the game with the last shot of the contest - that was what the Westports Malaysia Dragons had to endure last Sunday.

That was when the Singapore Slingers edged them in a last-gasp 75-73 Game 4 victory at the OCBC Arena in the Asean Basketball League Finals, denying them the chance to clinch the title then.

Fast forward to today, and the Dragons are keen to put that agonising defeat behind them, and are in a buoyant mood as they prepare for the deciding game of the series back on their home court.

 

During their final training session at the Maba Stadium yesterday, coach Ariel Vanguardia told The Straits Times: "We're raring to bounce back from our last defeat.

"Obviously we got hurt but we've worked hard the whole year for this, we're going to give everything we've got."

The hosts, who are also gunning for their first ABL title, having finished second to Hi-Tech Bangkok City last term, will be boosted by swingman Matthew Wright's return to full fitness. The league's Most Valuable Player (Asean heritage) has been struggling with an ankle sprain since Game 1 of their semi-final series against the Saigon Heat last month.

Vanguardia said of the sharpshooter: "He was not 100 per cent in the games so far in the series, but he will be for this game. Hopefully that will help us a lot, especially on his lateral movement in defence."

Point guard Jason Brickman is eager for this group of Dragons to sign off their last game as a team on a high in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,000, with some of them linked to moves abroad after the season ends.

LAST CHANCE TO GIVE IT ALL

Obviously we got hurt but we've worked hard the whole year for this, we're going to give everything we've got.

ARIEL VANGUARDIA,Dragons coach, on how they are desperate to bounce back from their last defeat.

Said the 24-year-old, who indicated his desire to play in Europe next: "We've waited a long week for this game since Game 4 and it's finally here. The Maba Stadium is going to be rocking, it will give us a lot of energy."

Hours after the Dragons' training sessions, the Slingers took to the same court for light training, after a six-hour coach trip to Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning.

They are in an equally confident mood, as 2.11m centre Justin Howard is hoping they can carry the momentum from their Game 4 win into today's game.

Said the American, who scored a game-high 31 points last Sunday: "Obviously it's an emotional high. Not only because we won Game 4, but to win it in that manner.

"Game 5 is a brand new game, but it is a big mental advantage for us."

Point guard Wong Wei Long, who delivered the buzzer-beating winner in Game 4, has tried to keep a calm head for today's game by watching Korean dramas, in particular the hit series Descendants Of The Sun.

He said: "Throughout the five-month-long season, we've been through ups and downs as a team, the team camaraderie is there… and now the big game is finally here.

"Both teams will be excited and nervous, but we're going to play hard. We want to end it on a good note."


ABL FINALS

Game 5: Dragons v Slingers

StarHub Ch205 & 76.25MHz, 2.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'WOUNDED DRAGONS PATCHED AND READY'. Print Edition | Subscribe