SINGAPORE - The Singapore Slingers had to dig deep to reach the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs finals after throwing away a 12-point lead against Hong Kong Eastern in Game 2 of their semi-final on Wednesday (April 17).
They were even down by eight points with 10 minutes to play, but the Slingers found their groove late on to beat the home side 80-73 at the Southorn Stadium and win the tie 2-0 on aggregate.
While coach Neo Beng Siang was pleased with his team reaching their third ABL finals, he lamented his players' lack of teamwork that resulted in them losing the lead in the third quarter.
"We fell apart and our players got emotional when things weren't going right," he said.
"In Game 1, we shared the ball and played together as a team. Today in the third quarter, we weren't playing as a team offensively that really hurt us.
"But, in the fourth quarter, we came back strong and played good defence to get the win."
The Slingers started brightly, leading 19-12 after the first quarter. But their attack was sluggish, a far cry from the team that scored 61 points in the first half in Game 1.
Eastern made it difficult for the Slingers to break them down in the second quarter, but three-pointers from Ng Han Bin and Larry Liew helped the team hang on to a 43-38 lead at half-time.
Eastern began the third quarter on the front foot and did well to limit the Slingers' shots while executing theirs.
With two minutes left and the game tied at 53-53, Eastern scored the next five points through captain Ki Lee and O'Darien Bassett to take a 62-54 lead into the last quarter.
But the Slingers regrouped and, aided by free throws and John Fields' dunks, pulled away to reach their third ABL play-offs finals in four years.
Centre Fields top-scored again for the visitors with 26 points followed by fellow Americans Alexander (22) and Jerran Young (15).
The Slingers will meet either last year's runners-up Mono Vampire or CLS Knights Indonesia in the finals.
Vampire and Knights meet on Sunday for Game 1 and next Wednesday for Game 2. Game 3, if needed, will be on April 28. The dates for the best-of-five finals will be announced after that.
Neo is more concerned about his team's recovery than his potential opponents.
"The next week will be pretty good for us to recover properly and start afresh for the finals," he said.
"I'm not worried about playing either of them. Whoever's in the finals, we will be ready for them."