Slingers fall in overtime thriller
Singapore: 12th February 2017
Singapore Slingers missed a golden opportunity to shore up a top two finish in the Asean Basketball League regular season yesterday, losing 62-64 to Alab Pilipinas in an overtime thriller at OCBC Arena yesterday.
In a match that had many twists and turns, Slingers guard Wong Wei Long almost pulled off a miraculous victory for the home team, hitting a clutch three-pointer in the final minute to close the gap to 54-55, and then earning two foul shots with one second remaining on the clock when he was fouled attempting a go-ahead layup on a fast break opportunity.
Wong hit the first free throw to level scores but his second attempt hit the back of the rim and bounced off, sending the game into the extra period.
The Slingers took the early ascendancy in the opening stages of overtime, and when Delvin Goh tipped in a missed shot to forge ahead 62-59, the home team were in a winning position.
But Alab Pilipinas held their nerve in the final minute of overtime, closing the gap to one point when James Hughes hit a clutch mid range jump shot, and then Sampson Carter gave the Philippines team the advantage when he seized on a long, loose ball rebound and converted a three-point play to make it 64-62 with 17 seconds remaining.
The Slingers had a chance to tie scores on the final possession, but Alab Pilipinas guard Jens Knuttel stripped Leon Kwek of the ball as the Slingers guard attempted a shot as time drew to a close.
The Slingers took the early ascendency in the match with big man Justin Howard dominating at both ends of the floor.
In the absence of fellow world import Xavier Alexander, who was restricted to 5 minutes of action in the first half due to foul trouble, Howard scored 16 of the Slingers’ first 23 points.
Howard was well supported by Goh, who replaced Alexander in the lineup, and the Slingers dominated the boards to control the first 12 minutes of the match.
The physical Alab Pilipinas team worked their way into the contest in the second quarter, gaining control of the rebounding battle and capitalising on four Slingers turnovers to reduce the deficit to one point at half time, 31-30.
In a match that had eight lead changes, Alab Pilipinas looked the likely winner with a minute remaining in the match, but then Wong hit the Slingers’ first three-pointer of the game to give the home side some hope.
The Slingers missed five free throws in the fourth quarter, failing to take their chances in the tense affair.
The home side failed to deal with Alab’s match-up zone in the second half, and made only 1-11 three point shots, and connected on only 21-70 (30%) field goal attempts for the match.
It is the second week in a row that the Slingers played a double header while their opponent was coming off five days rest, and while they will never admit to it, fatigue had to be a factor in the Slingers’ demise.
Howard continued his MVP like season with 28 points and 15 rebounds, Goh had his best game as a Slinger with 10 points and 6 rebounds, and Alexander had flashes of brilliance on his way to 9 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, but picking up his third foul with 9 minutes remaining in the second quarter limited his impact.
The Slingers are now 10-4 on the season, locked in a three-way battle with Hong Kong Lions and Alab Pilipinas for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Hong Kong defeated Malaysia Dragons yesterday to improve to 8-2 while Alab moved to 7-4.
Slingers are 2-2 against both teams in the regular season matchup, meaning it could come down to points scored for and against if the teams are deadlocked at the end of the season.
The Slingers take on Taiwan team Kaoshing Truth in their next two matches, the first next Sunday in Taiwan, and then in Singapore on Feb 26.
Article written by Michael Farrell