Basketball: Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks snatch win from jaws of defeat

Shanghai Sharks guard Jimmer Fredette shooting over the Mighty Sports' Kiefer Ravena and Hamady Barro N'diaye during the Merlion Cup final. The American sank all 12 of his free throws, including three at the end to turn a two-point deficit into a lea
Shanghai Sharks guard Jimmer Fredette shooting over the Mighty Sports' Kiefer Ravena and Hamady Barro N'diaye during the Merlion Cup final. The American sank all 12 of his free throws, including three at the end to turn a two-point deficit into a lead the Sharks held on to for a 78-77 win.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Shanghai's top scorer Fredette, perfect from the line, gives his side last-gasp Cup victory

It was the last piece of action of the game, and his basketball team Shanghai Sharks were trailing Mighty Sports from the Philippines 75-77 in the Merlion Cup final.

American import Jimmer Fredette stood on the free-throw line, as the atmosphere in the OCBC Arena built to a frenzied level with close to 3,000 fans screaming and cheering.

The former National Basketball Association (NBA) player, who had joined the Chinese team just last month, had three free throws - and his team's destiny - in his hands.

It went in perfectly down the hoop. Not once, not twice but thrice as it finished 78-77 to the Sharks.

Of that tournament-winning moment, former New York Knicks point guard Fredette said: "I had three (free throws) and the mentality was that I had to make two to put us in to overtime.

"My brother and I practised those game-winning free throws since I was young and you live for opportunities like that.

"You try not to be nervous, you're in the middle of the game, you have to take your mind off, think about something else, not worry about the free throws.

"You've been doing that your whole life, just let muscle memory take over."

With one second left on the clock, the 27-year-old was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. That offence was met with outrage in the spectator stands, with Philippine supporters booing the referee's decision.

There was no better person the Sharks could count on than Fredette, to deliver the game through his free throws.

Even though he converted just 38 per cent of his field goal attempts - the lowest among his team-mates - Fredette sank all 12 of his attempted free throws to contribute a team-high 41 points.

It was a dramatic end to the tournament, a six-team invitational hosted by Singapore for the first time since 1996. The Sharks led 25-17 at the end of the first quarter but went into the final quarter trailing 53-61.

In contrast, the third-place play-off between the Singapore Slingers and Korean side Seoul Samsung Thunders was a one-sided affair, as the hosts were trounced 94-55.

Coach Neo Beng Siang said: "We shot badly, we started off sloppily, we did not shoot well, and we fell apart. Today we didn't perform (well), I'm disappointed to let the fans down."

Rating his cagers 4.5 out of 10 for their overall performance in the five-day tournament, Neo added: "But it is a good warm-up for us (before the start of the Asean Basketball League season). We are small (in size), so we need to work on our team defence and there are a lot of things we need to tidy up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Sharks snatch win from jaws of defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe