SINGAPORE - What was supposed to be a tight game turned out to be a rout as the Singapore Slingers outclassed Hong Kong Eastern 101-70 in Game 1 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs semi-finals on Friday (April 12).
Coach Neo Beng Siang was all smiles in front of over 2,000 fans at the OCBC Arena and declared that this was a display of "real basketball".
"We did well on both ends. There were a couple of sloppy turnovers, but we committed only nine in the end and that's really good," he said.
"One thing I'm really happy about is that we played together as a team, with 28 assists. That shows we trust one another and, hopefully, we can keep it up going into Game 2.
"Everyone contributed and I'm really happy with that. Jerran (Young) got into foul trouble, but the locals stepped up to stick to (Marcus) Elliott (Eastern import) and limited on his scoring."
The Slingers raced to a 11-3 lead, aided by sharp shooting and Eastern's sloppy passes. Scoring guard Young picked up three personal fouls, limiting his playing time but local players Ng Han Bin, Delvin Goh and Larry Liew stepped up in his absence to extend their first-quarter lead to 32-20.
Eastern tightened their defence in the second quarter, but were no match for the Slingers' speedy footwork and attacking play as the Slingers surged ahead to lead 61-32 at half-time.
The home side maintained their tight defence and momentum for the remaining two quarters to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three ABL semi-finals.
Eight of the 11 fielded players got on the scoreboard as centre John Fields top-scored for the Slingers with 29 points followed by fellow Americans Young and Xavier Alexander with 16 points each.
The local players shone as well with Goh scoring 15, Liew contributing 11 and Ng adding nine.
Goh praised his local teammates for stepping up and said: "I'm definitely happy, but we cannot be satisfied with our performance.
"Hong Kong is a totally different venue and Eastern have the crowd behind them so we have to fix things up offensively and defensively and do what we do best there."
Eastern's top scorer O'Darien Bassett had an outing to forget, scoring only nine points. Fellow Americans Elliott and Michael Holyfield scored 19 points apiece.
While Neo praised his team for a stunning performance, he warned them against getting complacent ahead of the away game next Wednesday.
"We can be happy, but we cannot be satisfied. We must be mentally prepared and start the game with this intensity and aggression. We want to finish there."
A deciding Game 3, if needed, will be played on April 21 at the OCBC Arena.