SINGAPORE - At half-time, the Singapore Slingers led by two points and an upset win over defending champions and current Asean Basketball League (ABL) leaders Alab Pilipinas looked on the cards.
Neo Beng Siang's charges maintained their lead at 46-44 at the start of the third quarter but, after Alab scored the next five points to take the lead, the home side never got back into the game.
To make matters worse, Slingers import Jerran Young fouled out shortly after when they were down by one point.
With Sunday's (March 3) 80-70 loss, the Slingers saw their four-game winning run end in front of about 2,800 fans at the OCBC Arena. They remain third in the 10-team ABL with a 13-8 record behind Alab (17-4) and Formosa Dreamers (15-6).
Slingers coach Neo singled out Young's fouling out as a key reason for their loss.
"We lost one import and he's our scoring guard so he's a big loss for us. We played pretty well in the first half, but we decided to switch to zonal defence because Young picked up his third foul in the first half," he said.
The Slingers started strong with sharp shooting and a strong defence to lead 21-18 after the first quarter.
Alab then stepped up their defence with 2.20m centre P.J. Ramos making it difficult for the Slingers to make any offensive headway.
Young's playing time was limited after committing his third personal foul in the second quarter, but fellow imports John Fields and Xavier Alexander stepped up, scoring 10 of the Slingers' 14 points for a 35-33 half-time lead.
Young scored eight points before fouling out in the third quarter and Alab seized the initiative after that as they outscored the Slingers 36-23 to lead 69-58.
The Slingers fought back briefly in the fourth quarter, narrowing the gap to just five points at one point, but ran out of steam to lose 80-70 after missing 15 of 19 field attempts.
Centre Fields led the hosts with 21 points followed by Young (19) and Alexander (18). Alab centre Renaldo Balkman top-scored with 28 points followed by Ramos with 22.
Neo added that he expected more from his local players.
"Everybody is beatable. It's how you bring it out on game day and get ready to focus on sticking to the game plan," he said.
"Towards the end, our local players didn't really step up. It's the first time we sold out, so they're a bit nervous and gave themselves too much pressure.
"We need to be more confident in scoring because when we miss and when we're down, we pass rather than take the shot so we need to build our confidence level."
The Slingers will play the CLS Knights Indonesia on Sunday at the OCBC Arena after beating them 71-68 in their last meeting to qualify for the play-offs.
Said Neo: "I'm happy to make the play-offs, but there's no change to our plans. We're still fighting for top four and we'll work towards it."