Basketball: Slingers slip up in bid for ABL semi-final spot but coach Neo Beng Siang remains upbeat

Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is still confident about his team's bid for a semi-final spot in the Asean Basketball League play-offs despite their 80-78 loss to the Macau Black Bears on April 4, 2019.
Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is still confident about his team's bid for a semi-final spot in the Asean Basketball League play-offs despite their 80-78 loss to the Macau Black Bears on April 4, 2019.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Slingers suffered heartbreak in a last-gasp 80-78 loss to the Macau Black Bears in Game Two of their Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs quarter-final on Thursday (April 4). 

But coach Neo Beng Siang is still confident that his team will make it to the semi-finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

With 25.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 78-78 after ABL all-time top scorer Xavier Alexander missed a crucial free throw. 

In the next possession, Black Bears captain Mikhael Mckinney dribbled past the Slingers defence to produce a stunning lay-up and seal the win. The result also forced a deciding Game Three at the OCBC Arena on Sunday.

“I hope they will be mentally prepared (for the decider), but I’m still very confident we will win the game at home and advance to the semi-finals,” Neo said of his players.

The Slingers, who had beaten the Black Bears in the first leg at the OCBC Arena 102-91, raced to a 13-7 lead at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Centre in Guangdong, China, but the Black Bears fought back to trail 22-21 at the end of the first quarter.

The Macau team then surged into a 26-24 lead in the second quarter before Mckinney picked up his third personal foul, limiting his playing time.

The Slingers took advantage of his absence to score six points before extending their lead to 37-32 at half-time. 

But playmaker Mckinney managed to stay out of foul trouble in the second half, leading the Black Bears’ quick attacks as they outscored the Slingers 27-23 in the third quarter to reduce their deficit to just one point. .

 

It was neck and neck in the fourth quarter as the teams exchanged leads before Mckinney drove through in the dying seconds to score the winning basket. 

Alexander top-scored for the Slingers with 27 points, followed by fellow American Jerran Young (19). Their compatriot John Fields managed just 14 points, a far cry from the 31 he scored in Game One last Sunday. 

Neo said his team will be working on improving their shooting accuracy as they converted only 38 per cent of their field-goal attempts.

“We’re not shooting well mid-range and outside the circle,” he said. 

“We’re not getting enough defensive rebounds and giving them the opportunity to get back into the game.

“Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with the performance. We did well in the first half, but we fell apart in the second half. I think we lost to ourselves.”