Basketball: Singapore Slingers to pay extra attention to Hi-Tech dangermen in first game of semis

Hosts will put 2 men to mark Hi-Tech danger man Cabahug for their ABL semi-finals clash

Singapore Slingers captain Desmond Oh dribbling as John Ng marks him during training at OCBC Arena. The team are going for a first title.
Singapore Slingers captain Desmond Oh dribbling as John Ng marks him during training at OCBC Arena. The team are going for a first title.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

When Hi-Tech Bangkok City's Tyler Lamb was ruled out of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs with a hamstring injury, the Singapore Slingers could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief.

After all, the 24-year-old, 1.96m forward had been the heartbeat of his team during the regular season, averaging 18 points and nearly five rebounds per game.

However, the American's replacement - Filipino Patrick Cabahug - is no slouch himself.

The 1.86m guard excelled for the defending champions, scoring 41 points over two games to eliminate the Slingers 2-0 in the most recent 2014 season's semi-finals and will be looking to do so again when the teams line up today at the OCBC Arena.

With a better regular season record, the Slingers (16-4) have home advantage over Hi-Tech (14-6) in the best-of-three semis. Both teams are tied 2-2 in the regular season, with Hi-Tech ending the Slingers 10-game winning streak earlier this month.

Said Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang: "Cabahug is a good shooter. Last season we got killed by him, he scored a lot of points... We need to be aware of him."

He will deploy forward Xavier Alexander, who was joint third in the league with 2.3 steals per game, to guard Cabahug.

Containing the threat of Hi-Tech's twin towers 2.16m Christien Charles (25.4 points, 14 rebounds) and 2.04m Steven Thomas (21.7 points, 12.9 rebounds) will be crucial for the Slingers.

The pair combined for 30 boards and 41 points in their 83-75 win on Hi-Tech's last visit on Feb 5.

Neo has spent the past week working on a strategy - the defensive drill sees two Slingers mark a single opposing post player while the rest rotates to ensure a balance in defence - to contain the duo.

Said Neo: "We took away their two bigs from scoring and rebounding once last November in Bangkok (Slingers won 84-65), that is the same game we want to play, but we need to be really active on that."

Unsurprisingly, a steely back court has been the hallmark of the Slingers' success this campaign.

Neo's side have restricted their opponents to just 71.7 points in 20 regular-season games - the best in the six-team league - and that defensive solidity will be key as the Slingers attempt to win their maiden championship. He said: "When we lose a game, usually it is because we play more individually, and not playing as a team in defence. We need to make sure... everybody's on the same page."

Confidence in the team was high, noted captain Desmond Oh, who has been with the Slingers since the inaugural ABL season in 2009.

He added: "With our focus on defence this year, and our three imports doing very well with us, it is a good chance for us to make amends (for last season's semis exit). I think we can do very well this year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline 'Slingers to pay extra attention'. Print Edition | Subscribe