Savvy Urbiztondo may tip scales in Slingers' favour

Singapore Slingers will be counting on their Filipino- American point guard Joshua Urbiztondo to make key plays in Game Three of the ABL final against Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
Singapore Slingers will be counting on their Filipino- American point guard Joshua Urbiztondo to make key plays in Game Three of the ABL final against Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.PHOTO: ASEAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

Going into the crunch time of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs, experience is bound to benefit any team.

That was exactly the Singapore Slingers' train of thought, who added point guard Joshua Urbiztondo in February.

The 34-year-old Filipino-American, who spent seven seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and was named a PBA All-Star in 2012, could prove to be the ace in the hole as the Slingers seek their first ABL title.

They host the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions for the next two games in the best-of-five final with the series tied at 1-1.

Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "We were looking to bring him in for some time, but he was still under contract in the PBA. Josh brings competitiveness, experience and a veteran's savvy to the team."

Urbiztondo averaged 14 points and five assists in the semi-finals against the Alab Pilipinas, and then set an ABL finals record with seven three-pointers en route to 23 points in Game One last Saturday in Hong Kong as the Slingers dominated their opponents.

He and the rest of his team-mates could not match that intensity in Game Two, but Urbiztondo vowed an improvement tonight in Game Three at the OCBC Arena.

He said: "I don't consider ourselves as underdogs, but I personally like being the underdog because that puts all the pressure on them. We just go out and play our game, which gives us more motivation."

Having two home matches to close out the series would be vital, said Johnson, who added Game Two "turned into a circus".

He said: "The crowd was hostile, they threw things at us and Hong Kong brought it physically. At least we won't have to worry about anything been thrown at us over the next two matches, but we would definitely step up physically."

The Slingers lost last year's ABL Finals 2-3 to Westports Malaysia Dragons, but Slingers captain Desmond Oh believes the addition of Urbiztondo has given the team a new dimension.

The 30-year-old guard said: "Everyone knows Josh is a three-point specialist, so he helps draw defenders to the perimeter and open space for us. He is a good leader and boosts our morale by giving energy and encouragement."

Urbiztondo added: "Settling here with the team was quite easy because the team-mates and coaching staff really made the transition very easy for me. They were really welcoming and accommodating which really helped.

"Personal accolades are special but championship is more special.

"Winning a championship means the world to me. To be able to bring the first championship to the Slingers, this is what we play for."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Savvy Urbiztondo may tip scales in Slingers' favour'. Print Edition | Subscribe