With the game tied at 73 and just four tenths of a second remaining, Wong Wei Long let loose a jumper that beat the clock, and the entire OCBC Arena roared.
Thanks to Wong, the battle-scarred Singapore Slingers recovered from their slump and beat the Westports Malaysia Dragons 75-73 in Game 4 to tie the best-of-five ASEAN Basketball League Finals series, forcing a final face-off in Kuala Lumpur next Saturday (26 March).
Wong lived up to his status as the Most Valuable Local Player in the league, and stepped up to complete the final play to rescue the home team’s season.
“I wanted this win very badly,” said Wong. “We all worked so hard just for this throughout the regular season and these are the last few moments and I really need to step up to my game.”
“I was lucky to receive the pass and there was no hesitation and I just pulled up for the jumper.”
Prior to the fourth quarter, Wong was 0-for-4 and played sparingly due to early foul trouble. In the fourth, Wong found his shot and was 2-for-3 on threes.
‘Hell of a game’
For Slingers’ general manager and assistant coach Michael Johnson who was celebrating his birthday, the win was the perfect gift.
“That was just a hell of a game. They played great and amazing right down the stretch,” said Johnson.
“It went all the way to a big play at the buzzer but it’s great for the league because it now goes to a Game 5, which doesn’t happen much.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to take a few of our fans up to Kuala Lumpur, as many as they will let in, and have a bit of fun on Saturday.”
Despite blowing an early eight-point lead, the Slingers were also sparked by an awakened Xavier Alexander, who was involved in a small scuffle with the Dragons’ Reginald Johnson in the second quarter.
Alexander, who was plagued with foul trouble in Game 3, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Centre Justin Howard also made up for a lackluster Game 3 performance to put up a double-double of 31 points and 13 boards on 72 per cent shooting.
Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang was quick to credit the team’s performance, and highlighted that his charges were “hungrier” and “hustled better” in the game.
“Wei Long stepped up big when it mattered and with the time running down, we just wanted to run the clock down and not let the Dragons have another possession.”
An elated Neo added, “Luckily for us, he (Wong) was on form in the fourth and he made the shot and we were able to finish off with the win.
“We’re now ready to go to Kuala Lumpur for Game 5.”
Game 5 will be played next Saturday, 26 March at the Dragons’ home court in Kuala Lumpur.