Slingers get first win to Neo's relief

Singapore Slingers swingman Xavier Alexander jumps to shoot in the Asean Basketball League match against CLS Knights Indonesia at the OCBC Arena yesterday. Alexander posted a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to lead the Slingers t
Singapore Slingers swingman Xavier Alexander jumps to shoot in the Asean Basketball League match against CLS Knights Indonesia at the OCBC Arena yesterday. Alexander posted a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to lead the Slingers to a 77-66 win in their first game on home turf this season.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The winning margin may seem comfortable, but the Singapore Slingers were made to sweat before beating CLS Knights Indonesia 77-66 yesterday afternoon for their first Asean Basketball League (ABL) win of the season.

In a packed OCBC Arena, where a snaking queue formed right up to tip-off, the Slingers were pumped up to make amends for last week's 83-59 away drubbing at Chong Son Kung Fu Basketball Club in the ABL season opener as they raced to a 6-0 start.

But the hosts' poor free-throw conversion rate of just 40 per cent allowed the Knights to fight back and take a 34-29 lead at the end of the half. Their new signing Evan Brock was a particular thorn in the flesh for the Slingers with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The Knights were still up by four with 1.4 seconds left in the third quarter, with the Slingers in possession after the ball had gone out of play.

Swingman Xavier Alexander popped it into the paint, and centre Ryan Wright tipped it in at the buzzer to narrow the deficit to 56-58.

This roused the Slingers supporters, who roared the team to another 6-0 start to the final quarter to take the lead which they never relinquished.

Alexander posted a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Wright had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Their local roster also chipped in with 25 points and 17 rebounds, as forward Russel Low led the way with 10 points and four rebounds.

Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "I told the team we played poorly in parts in the first three quarters - there were even some air balls - but we were still just two points behind, so I encouraged them to be more confident.

"It's a good thing Xavier stepped up and the local players took turns to make baskets. We are relieved to pick up our first win, but we are not satisfied.

"We play Alab Pilipinas away on Wednesday and we are aiming to be in the top two by Christmas."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Slingers get first win to Neo's relief'. Print Edition | Subscribe