OCBC Arena Singapore: 2nd April 2017
The Singapore Slingers are one win away from securing a second straight ABL grand final berth after recording a comfortable 77-67 victory over Alab Pilipinas in Game 1 of the ASEAN Basketball League semi final series at OCBC Arena today.
Xavier Alexander was the star of the show for the Slingers, finding form at the right time of the season with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.
Alexander’s contribution at both ends of the floor was immense, and he ably led the Slingers with aggressive defence, stellar rebounding, slashing drives to the basket, and perimeter shooting.
The 6’5” US swingman is not known for his long-range shooting skills, and teams usually dare him to shoot from deep in an attempt to counter his outstanding driving ability, but in the all important game 1 of the semi final series Alexander made them pay from range, making 9-14 field goals and 1-1 from 3-point range.
Alexander was well supported by his teammates, and the Slingers were able to maintain their steady play for the entire four quarters to keep Alab Pilipinas at bay.
Singaporean forward Delvin Goh was a major factor putting in one of his best games in his short ABL career. The 21-year old forward played more than 30 minutes and finished with impressive stats of 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot in another impressive display by this emerging youngster.
Goh’s influence was significant, as frontcourt partner Justin Howard was below his best on offence.
Alab played a zone defence for most of the first half, and they focused on cutting down on the touches Howard got, the Slingers big man averaged 24.4 points and 18.1 rebounds this season but struggled to find his range in game 1.
The zone defence was effective in limiting Howard to 6 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, but the Slingers were able to break out to a 42-31 lead at half time on the back of crisp ball movement and stellar perimeter shooting.
The Slingers made 5 three-pointers in the first 20 minutes, and had 12 assists on 15 made baskets.
Wong Wei Long was prominent in the first half, scoring 10 points on 4-5 field goals, of which included a perfect 2-2 from three-point range.
Wong played his best game in more than a month, and finished with 11 points and 3 assists off the bench.
The last time the two teams met, the Slingers shot a miserly 2-17 from 3-point range in an OT 62-64 loss, but in Game 1 of the semi final the home side connected on 5-11 3s in the first half (6-17 overall) and forced Alab to abandon their zone defence.
This allowed Howard to assert himself in the second half, and while the centre finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds (both season lows), he was a focus on offence in the fourth quarter and the Slingers were able to grind out the win by executing their offence and taking good shots.
ASEAN heritage import Josh Urbiztondo continued his steady play, finishing with 11 points and 3 assists in 27 minutes, and Desmond Oh and Leon Kwek were also solid performers off the bench.
For Alab, new recruit Kiefer Ravena finished with 16 points, James Hughes had 13 and Sampson Carter 9.
Alab will be concerned with injuries to Bobby Ray Parks and Lawrence Domingo, but will aim to bounce back in Game 2 in the Philippines on Friday.
Game 3, if required, will be at OCBC Arena on Sunday April 9.
Today’s semi final attracted a sell out crowd of 2504.
Article written by Michael Farrell