While a 1-3 win-loss record might not seem that impressive on paper, Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said the team’s Merlion Cup performances were much better than the win-loss record suggests. 

The Slingers defeated Taiwan’s Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor 79-71 in the opening game of the tournament, but it was their performances against Shanghai Sharks and Philippines Mighty Sports in the following two games that really impressed the Slingers coach.

 The Slingers made the Sharks work very hard in their pool match, at one stage trailing by only two points late in the third-quarter, before the Sharks took control in the latter stages of the match to win 89-67.

 The highlight for the Slingers came in the semi-final against pre-tournament favourite Mighty Sports, losing a heartbreaker in the final moments of the game 72-70.

 “I was happy with the performances, especially the first three games,” Neo said.

 “We had only 5 days of practice before the tournament, and we were not in great physical shape. We played well in the first three games but playing four games in five days proved to be pretty tough for us.”

 Indeed it did as Slingers lost to Seoul Thunders 94-55 in the bronze medal match.

 Coach Neo said the Slingers gained a lot of confidence from the tournament, proving that they could perform against international competition.

 “We weren’t very happy with the last game,” he said. “But with a limited preparation we understand that that performance isn’t who we are. The players were exhausted by the final game of the tournament.”

 Import duo Xavier Alexander and Justin Howard were impressive performers in the Merlion Cup, while Leon Kwek provided a spark off he bench to signal his intention to play a more significant role for the Slingers this year.

 Alexander was a standout in the first three games with 21 points and 11 rebounds against the Taiwan team, 20 and 10 against Shanghai and 20-12 in the semi final loss to Mighty Sports.

Howard was a monster on the boards, collecting 17, 14, and 20 rebounds in the opening games while also pouring in 20, 19 and 24 points in each game.

 Kwek had a high of 10 points and 3 steals in the opening game of the tournament, but it was his energy and competitive spirit in all games that really impressed.

 Reigning local most valuable player Wong Wei Long averaged 7 points in the Merlion Cup, while Wu Qingde, last year’s most improved player on the Slingers roster, played only limited minutes after battling leg injuries in the off season.

 The Slingers open their 2016/17 ASEAN Basketball League season against Malaysia Dragons on November 25 at OCBC Arena.

Tickets are on Sale Now from APACTix:

 http://apactix.staging.carbonhouse.com/events/detail/asean-basketball-league-201617

Article by Michael Farrell

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