Slingers end regular season with convincing win against Heat
Saigon 25th March 2017
Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander push to an impressive win against the Saigon Heat in the teams final regular season game before the playoffs begin next Sunday.
Behind the menacing presence of the World import Howard, the Slingers shut down the Heat, 86-71 at the Ho Xuan Huong Stadium to close their 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) regular season on a good note.
Howard capped the regular season with a season-high 39 points on a more efficient 18-of-29 shooting from the field and also grabbed 19 rebounds.
Xavier Alexander returned from a shoulder injury and narrowly missed a triple-double as he put up 13 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals. Leon Kwek also added 13 points.
Though the game had no bearing in the team standings, the Slingers (13-7) had no intention of relaxing from the get-go as they wanted to improve even more heading into the post-season.
“We haven’t been playing our best since the last couple of games so we really focused to get prepared for the playoffs. That doesn’t involve resting or taking days off,” Howard said.
The win avenged the Slingers’ loss to the Heat (8-12) last Sunday, and also evened their head-to-head series at two wins apiece.
“The game plan was definitely improving. I didn’t play the past game so I wanted to get rhythm and get ready for the playoffs. We came out like it’s Game 1 of the playoffs, and that’s how we were going to play,” Alexander added.
“I think for the better part of the game, we did that. We were locked in and ready to go.”
After Jordan Henriquez opened the game with two free throws, the Slingers went on to score the next 15 points. Xavier Alexander scored six points in the stretch which enabled the Slingers to take over.
Howard was locked in from the start, and tallied a double-double as early as the first half as he entered the locker room with 22 points and 12 rebounds with his team ahead, 39-29.
Singapore kept rolling in the second half, growing their advantage to as much as 24 points late in the fourth quarter before pulling out their starters.
“I told the players, don’t worry about others but look at ourselves. Other teams might be resting players already to prevent injury but sometimes during training, it happens as well,” Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang said.
“So, this game, welI just wanted to get everybody more momentum for the Philippines.”
The Heat, on the other hand, decided to sit out Lenny Daniel and allow their other players to see action before the playoffs. The squad struggled to stay in the game without their ace scorer, although in return, it allowed their locals to get a taste of high-level basketball.
“They (locals) needed to stick out there and play. They got about 20 shots for the other guys and they just stayed (on the floor) and get rhythm,” Daniel said.
Jordan Henriquez was the high-point man for Saigon, finishing with 25 points. David Arnold chipped in 20 points, most coming in the fourth quarter where the Heat scored 28 points overall to narrow the deficit in end.
The Heat will face the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions in one semi-final while the Singapore Slingers clash with Alab Pilipinas in the other series.