SINGAPORE - Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang has always stressed the importance of the local players in his team and called for them to step up and play a bigger role.
And Delvin Goh did just that in Game One of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs quarter-final against the Macau Black Bears at the OCBC Arena on Sunday (March 31), scoring 18 points to help his team win 102-91.
The 23-year-old was a constant threat at both ends of the court, scoring on nine of his 10 field attempts and grabbing eight rebounds.
"I just followed the coach's game plan and did what I do best, trying to help out at both offensive and defensive ends and taking the shots that my teammates trusted me to take. I was just doing my part," Goh told The Straits Times.
The Slingers started strong with quick attacking movements to lead 31-22 after the first quarter.
But sloppy passing and dribbling in the second quarter resulted in six turnovers and, with the Black Bears' increasing their attacking tempo, the home side's lead was cut to 50-48 at half-time.
The visitors maintained their strong defence early in the third quarter to take the lead briefly, but the Slingers regrouped to extend their advantage to 74-68.
And, to avoid a repeat of the second quarter, they stepped up on both ends in the last quarter to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarter-finals.
Neo was pleased with the win but called for improvement ahead of the away fixture on Thursday. The decider - if needed - will be played on Sunday at the OCBC Arena.
"In the second quarter, we were sloppy and we didn't play together as a team. They need to be disciplined and execute the offence as a team," said Neo.
"We communicated better (than in our previous game) and we committed only 12 turnovers, but we can definitely do better and get it down to a single digit.
"Overall, we have to remain strong defensively for the entire game instead of doing it on and off."
Centre John Fields top-scored for the Slingers with 31 points, followed by fellow Americans Xavier Alexander (25) and Jerran Young (20).
Neo also praised Goh and Ng Han Bin for their performance but insisted the local players can do more.
"Delvin is doing a decent job defensively but, offensively, he needs to be more aggressive," he said.
"Our locals need to step up and be consistent. It's not a matter of scoring, but playing your role well and doing what we need you to do."
Goh added: "It's all about putting in the effort. There are days when people can't make any shots so we can help out by doing other things that are not recorded by statistics.
"Confidence is one of the key things our local players lack so there are some shots we dare to take in training but not in games.
"If as a team we motivate them and help them build that confidence, I think we'll be good."
In the other quarter-final ties, league winners Formosa Dreamers were upset 83-80 by eighth-placed Mono Vampire in Taiwan while Hong Kong Eastern narrowly beat defending champions Alab Pilipinas 90-88 in Cebu City in the Philippines.
If the Slingers win in Macau on Thursday, they will meet either Alab or Eastern in the semi-finals.