Slingers rue awful shooting

Singapore Slingers centre John Fields, seen here in action against the Macau Black Bears on Nov 30, led all scorers with 35 points in the Asean Basketball League game against the Alab Pilipinas last night. But his teammates' lacklustre shooting prove
Singapore Slingers centre John Fields, seen here in action against the Macau Black Bears on Nov 30, led all scorers with 35 points in the Asean Basketball League game against the Alab Pilipinas last night. But his teammates' lacklustre shooting proved costly as the away team lost 77-71.ST PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN

Poor conversion from free-throw line proves costly as Singapore side lose to league leaders Alab

Last Friday, the Singapore Slingers drew level against Hong Kong Eastern in the very last second of play, before eventually losing 92-89 in double overtime at the OCBC Arena.

Neo Beng Siang's men came close to forcing overtime again last night against Asean Basketball League (ABL) defending champions and leaders Alab Pilipinas at the Caloocan Sports Complex in Manila, but ran out of steam to lose 77-71.

With the defeat, the Singapore side ended the year with an unwanted two-game losing run, while the hosts extended their winning streak to four games to cement their lead at the top of the 10-team league.

Alab were in control the entire match, with the Slingers leading for a total of 90 seconds in the first quarter.

While the hosts led throughout all four quarters, they arguably won the game in the second quarter when they outscored the visitors 21-13 to go into half-time with a 43-31 advantage.

The Slingers had trouble finding space under the basket, with Alab's twin towers of P.J. Ramos (2.20m) and Renaldo Balkman (2.03m) the pillars in defence.

In the second quarter, the 1.96m Xavier Alexander, after stealing possession from the middle of the court, charged towards the basket, only to bounce off Ramos, who barely had to jump.

PAYING THE PRICE

We started pretty slow and fell behind too much in the first half. Overall, we shot quite badly tonight, the free throws really killed us.

NEO BENG SIANG, Slingers coach, on what went wrong in Manila.

Coach Neo said: "He (Ramos) is really big and he played really well tonight with some good shots.

"We had to adapt, to slow down our game and to take more shots from the outside."

The Slingers gave themselves a fighting chance in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 24-19 to reduce the deficit to 62-55.

But they could not sustain the momentum in the final period, especially with Ramos contributing a total of 26 points, including three three-pointers.

Forward Alexander - who led the team with 25 points against Eastern - struggled with 10 points against Alab, although he contributed 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Centre John Fields filled the gap with a game-leading 35 points, while forward Jerran Young chipped in with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Neo said: "We started pretty slow and fell behind too much in the first half. We switched from man-marking to zonal defence in the second half, and our energy also picked up in the second half, which I was pretty pleased about. Overall, we shot quite badly tonight, the free throws really killed us."

While the hosts were 10 for 11 in free throws, the Slingers converted half of their 22 shots from the line, with Alexander scoring just one of his seven attempts.

The Slingers will get a week's break before resuming training on Dec 30 for their away encounter against the Formosa Dreamers on Jan 6, and Neo believes his players will come back recharged after the break.

"The break will be good for us, especially the imports who have been playing a lot," Neo said.

"They will come back fresher for practice, and we will also find new plays. But they'd need to do more shooting practice as well, especially free throws."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Slingers rue awful shooting'. Print Edition | Subscribe