ABL PLAY-OFFS S-FINALS
Hong Kong Eastern 73
Singapore Slingers 80
(Slingers win series 2-0)
The Singapore Slingers had to dig deep to reach the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals after throwing away a 12-point lead against Hong Kong Eastern yesterday.
They were even down by eight points with 10 minutes to play, but found their groove late on to beat the home side 80-73 at the Southorn Stadium.
While coach Neo Beng Siang was pleased with his team reaching their third ABL Finals in four years, he lamented the lack of teamwork that resulted in the Slingers losing the lead in the third quarter.
"We fell apart and our players got emotional when things weren't going right," he said. "In Game 1, we shared the ball and played together as a team. Today in the third quarter, we weren't playing as a team. Offensively, that really hurt us.
"But, in the fourth quarter, we came back strong and played good defence to get the win."
The Slingers started brightly, leading 19-12 after the first quarter. But their attack was sluggish, a far cry from the team who scored 61 points in the first half in Game 1.
Three-pointers from Ng Han Bin and Larry Liew helped them hang on to a 43-38 half-time lead despite their hosts making it difficult to be broken down.
Eastern began the third quarter on the front foot and did well to limit the Slingers' shots while executing theirs. With two minutes left and the game tied at 53-53, they scored the next five points through captain Lee Ki and O'Darien Bassett to take a 62-54 lead into the last quarter.
Game-high assists for the Singapore Slingers' Xavier Alexander, who also had 22 points and 16 rebounds to record a triple-double.
But the Slingers regrouped and, aided by free throws and John Fields' dunks, pulled away.
Centre Fields, with 26 points, top-scored again, followed by his fellow Americans Xavier Alexander (22) and Jerran Young (15).
The Slingers will meet the winners of the other semi-final between last year's runners-up, Mono Vampire of Thailand, and CLS Knights.
The Knights are hosts for Sunday's Game 1 while Game 2 is next Wednesday. Game 3, if needed, will be on April 28. The dates for the best-of-five Finals will be announced after that.
Neo is more concerned about his team's recovery than the identity of the opponents.
"The next week will be pretty good for us to recover properly and start afresh for the Finals," he said.
"I'm not worried about playing either of them. Whoever's in the Finals, we will be ready for them."