SINGAPORE – The heroes and villains of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) switched roles on Sunday (Feb 16) as the Singapore Slingers travelled across the Causeway for the second leg of the Straits cup derby against the Kuala Lumpur Dragons at the Maba Stadium.
With the Dragons winning the first leg 79-68 at the OCBC Arena on Friday, the rematch between the rivals kept spectators at the edge of their seats yesterday, as the see-saw encounter saw the Slingers eventually edging out the home side 88-87 in overtime.
Despite suffering a loss on home ground, the Dragons had the consolation of lifting the Straits Cup – an annual Causeway derby double-header which the Slingers have won in the last three seasons – on points difference.
The hosts had looked on track for a 2-0 sweep yesterday with Cade Davis on fire as the forward made nine out of 14 three-point attempts en route to a game-high 37 points.
But after tying the game at 76-76 with his final trey, the 31-year-old American missed a floater to win the game in regulation time, before fouling out with 2.3 seconds left in overtime when his team needed his hot shooting most.
Slingers talisman Xavier Alexander also had a rollercoaster end to the game despite yet another triple-double of 27 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
Despite making the big plays – he was fouled a game-high 10 points – and converting six out of seven free throws, the American missed all of his six free throws in overtime.
It was left to Slingers centre Anthony McClain (14 points, 17 rebounds) to settle the score, despite struggling with a foot injury.
The 2.14-metre American had bricked at the charity stripe towards the end of the fourth quarter, but with just 0.9 seconds left in the extra period, he was quickest to tip in Alexander’s missed free throw for the win.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang paid tribute to his fighters, and said: “We are pleased with this battling win today after the poor performance on Friday. We knew Davis’ threat but we over helped in our zone defence and left him open on many occasions.
“Still, we didn’t let our heads down even with his big scoring. Everyone showed good energy and effort. Even though he is injured, Biggie (McClain) is mentally strong and told us he can manage. He showed at the end how much he wanted it.
“Our locals also contributed but they have to be consistent and not just have one good game and disappear in the next.”
There were early signs this was going to be a keenly contested affair when Amir Bell’s stray elbow left Delvin Goh with a bloodied brow less than three minutes in.
Eager to break into the top three on the 10-team ABL table, the Dragons made a good start and led 24-18 after Davis made his first triple at the start of the second quarter.
But Goh (15 points, 10 rebounds) returned to the court with a vengeance to make an impact at both ends, as the Slingers fought back to lead 38-35 at the break.
That lead would extend to eight midway through the third quarter, but up stepped Davis with 15 points in that period to turn that deficit into a 62-58 advantage.
The battle continued as the Slingers played great defence to shut out the Dragons for the first six minutes of the fourth period to go 70-62 up as Marcus Elliott (20 points, 11 rebounds) came alive.
However, he fouled out with 1:36 left after a contentious clash with Bell, and that gave the Dragons a way back into the game, although they would eventually go down in overtime.
Goh said: “Our fans deserve better so we really wanted to win this away to avenge Friday’s loss. We talked things through yesterday night at training so we can all be on the same page and cut down our mistakes. We can still improve on today’s performances, but the way we won shows our tough character.
With the victory, the Slingers are tied with Macau Black Bears and the Dragons in fifth place in the ABL with seven wins and seven losses. They will travel to Thailand to play leaders Mono Vampire (11-4) on Wednesday.