After four grueling quarters and an action-packed overtime period, the Singapore Slingers were forced to a winner-takes-all game three against the Saigon Heat to decide on who’ll take on Hong Kong Eastern in the finals of the 2023 ABL Invitational.
With the home crowd roaring on the Saigon Heat, the Slingers were able to take game one of the series and the Slingers had most of the running in game 2 building an 11 point lead at one stage in the 3rd quarter.
Saigon battled back late in the 3rd period pulling the Slingers’ lead to just two points at the final change. The Heat would then push the game to overtime where the Singapore Slingers would start off with a five-point swing thanks to Jackson Mah’s three-pointer and CJ Gettys’ floater.
In the last two minutes of the overtime, the Slingers and the Heat were exchanging leads with crucial free throws from Vinh Nguyen and Evan Gilyard for the Heat while Kentrell Barkley’s lay-up gave the Slingers a one-point lead with less than a minute in the clock.
The Slingers than lost their way in the last minute of overtime losing their composure and focus with the shot clock running out on their final two possessions.
Gilyard sealed the victory for the hosts with two crucial free throws to set up an epic encounter in less than 24 hours after their win against the Slingers.
Slingers centre CJ Gettys led the Slingers with a huge double, double of 31 points and 20 rebounds while both Xavier Alexander and Barkley racked up 16 points a piece.
Despite leading the rebounding stats against the Heat, early foul troubles made it difficult for the Slingers with Larry Liew fouling out and Alexander and Gettys in foul trouble heading most of the 4th quarter and into overtime.
The Slingers had their chances to close out the series but facing a parochial Heat home crowd and a 30 free throws to 6 disparity they fell short by 2 points in overtime.
The Slingers and the Heat will now face off for the third time in a span of four days and are set to make their own storylines come Thursday night. If the Singapore Slingers win, they will setup a finals rematch against the Hong Kong Eastern whom they faced in the finals back in 2016-17 season and would also feature in their fourth finals appearance, making them the team who featured the most in the ABL Finals.
Should the Saigon Heat win, on the other hand, they will feature in their maiden appearance in the ABL finals and a chance to avenge themselves against Hong Kong Eastern who blanked them in their semifinal’s series back in the 2016-17 season. All of these will be decided tonight at 7:30 PM still at the Nguyen Du Stadium in Ho Chi Minh.