Reginald Johnson (#42) of the Westports Malaysia Dragons goes for a layup against Delvin Goh (#23) of the Singapore Slingers at MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (26 March). Photo: Jason Ng
After Wong Wei Long helped the Singapore Slingers snatch Game 4 with a buzzer-beater, the best-of-five ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals series was tied at two wins apiece.
The Wesports Malaysia Dragons walked out with their heads low, but the fire in their eyes had yet to be extinguished. Back in Kuala Lumpur’s MABA Stadium for a deciding Game 5 on Saturday (26 March), the ravenous Dragons stood tall against the visiting Slingers.
Supported by a raucous Malaysian crowd, the Dragons mustered all they had and defeated the Slingers 77-65, earning their first-ever ABL championship title.
Once again, the imports led the way for the Malaysians.
The Dragons’ one-two backcourt punch of Jason Brickman and Matthew Wright took the lead in the opening half with four treys from the perimeter, putting the home team up by 17 points at one point. Brickman had an all-around game of 22 points, seven boards and seven dimes, while Wright had 16 points.
“It was just a great series. We played great today. We played as a team. We played great defence. And I’m happy to come away with the win,” said Brickman, who was awarded the Finals Most Valuable Player honours.
“I’ve become a better leader, and being with these guys all season, I think we’ve improved as a team and played our best basketball at the end.”
Despite a poor first-half performance, Calvin Godfrey and Reginald Johnson showed up in a big way down the stretch, finishing with double-doubles respectively.
What went wrong for the Slingers
While the Slingers did manage to fight back, they never recovered from the deficit.
Singapore’s imports, namely Xavier Alexander and Justin Howard, were plagued with foul trouble once again, and the locals were unable to step up.
The Slingers’ offence appeared extremely rushed, as they opted for multiple ill-advised attempts. Most Valuable Local Player Wong and Wu Qingde, who had been shooting well through the season, had abysmal outings, shooting one for 11 and zero for 10 respectively.
Kris Rosales, however, had a decent outing, finishing with 22 points on 46 per cent shooting.
Regardless of the result, both teams made history – the Dragons earned their first-ever title while the Slingers finished second, their best finish since their inauguration.
“We’ve got to give it to Singapore – they pushed us to the limit,” said Dragons head coach Ariel Vanguardia.
“Singapore is a very good defensive team and we always have to find ways to score. But today, we proved to ourselves that we can play defence also.”
Crediting the victory to the support from the home fans, Vanguardia added, “The fans here at MABA have been good to us. All six years, they stayed with us and never left us. And they were unbelievable today.”