Basketball: Slingers in Finals agony again

Slingers' guard Xavier Alexander (No. 15) battling for a loose ball with guard Tyler Lamb (No. 10) of the Long Lions. The Slingers have lost back-to-back ABL Finals.
Slingers' guard Xavier Alexander (No. 15) battling for a loose ball with guard Tyler Lamb (No. 10) of the Long Lions. The Slingers have lost back-to-back ABL Finals.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions hold their nerve in double OT to clinch first ABL c'ship

ABL FINALS: GAME FOUR

Singapore Slingers 80

Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions 82

(Long Lions win series 3-1)

For a second consecutive season, the Singapore Slingers failed to get the job done in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals.

Beaten by Westports Malaysia Dragons in five games last season, they managed to battle their way into the Finals again, thanks to their stellar defence and three-point shooting.

Yet, they tripped up at the final hurdle again - this time losing in Game Four of the best-of-five Finals to the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions, 80-82 in double overtime.

The defeat at the OCBC Arena gave the Long Lions a 3-1 series victory and their first ABL title, and left the Slingers players disconsolate after the thrilling, see-saw game.

They must have been wondering how they blew their two home games, despite a good and boisterous crowd support, and how they let the series slip away despite winning the first game in Hong Kong.

Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang admitted that their minds may not have been calm enough at home.

"It's home court, and they wanted badly to perform and win a game (in front of) their friends," he explained. "It happens sometimes."

However, when the game started yesterday, nerves looked to be a non-issue for the Slingers as they led the first quarter 21-20.

From then on, however, they failed to lock down the Long Lions for extended periods of the game, and the game became more of a catch up with the visitors every time they went on a scoring run.

Still, the Slingers led by 59-55 after three quarters, following two steals and subsequent baskets by forward Xavier Alexander.

The Long Lions bounced back in the fourth quarter thanks to their deadly three-point shooting, and with 20 seconds left in regulation time, had the final possession with the score at 68-all.

However, their American guard Marcus Elliott missed a lay-up, and the match went into overtime.

The lead then changed hands 16 times in the first overtime, and Alexander's contested shot bounced off the rim right at the end with the score still tied at 74-all to send the game into a second overtime.

With Slingers' key point guard Josh Urbiztondo having fouled out, the Long Lions then built a four-point lead at at 82-78, before the Slingers clawed it back to 80-82 with two minutes left on the clock.

That was as good as it got for the hosts as their offence - which has come in spurts for much of their ABL season - ground to a halt, and that crucial basket never came as the Long Lions celebrated with glee at the final buzzer.

Elliott, the Finals' Most Valuable Player, complimented the Slingers after the game: "The Slingers are a tough bunch.

"The utmost respect to them - their bench, their local players, their coaching staff."

Neo is already looking forward past the heartbreaking defeat.

He said: "At this moment, we're not thinking too much. Hopefully the (players) have a good rest.

"I hope all the local boys will be back and help the national team for the (Kuala Lumpur) SEA Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'Slingers in finals agony again'. Print Edition | Subscribe