Slingers on cloud nine

PHOTO: The New Paper

They are almost certainly play-off bound, and the Singapore Slingers will be the team to beat when the battle for the big prize reaches its later stages, after yet a powerful display in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) yesterday.

The Singapore outfit were simply too good, rolling to an 80-58 victory over the Pilipinas MX3 Kings at the OCBC Arena.

Two weeks ago, the Slingers were a mere second away from losing to the Kings, and the ABL leaders initially still appeared to be affected by the hangover over that match yesterday.

But they improved to restrict their opponents to just five points in the second quarter, before racing into a 20-point lead at the end of the third.

Commenting on the difference between the two games, coach Neo Beng Siang said: "We charged up on the defence and did a full court press.

"There were a couple of spills to let us pull away on the scoresheet.

"We need to stay positive and keep encouraging the players. Hopefully they don't get over-confident; that's the most important thing."

The Slingers' local players hogged the limelight in the previous two games with their impressive performances, but against the MX3 Kings, it was their American imports who were outstanding.

Xavier Alexander and Justin Howard contributed a whopping 45 points to extend their team's unbeaten run to nine games, with six left to play in the regular season.

FOCUS

"We just had a hard week of practice and we want to focus and not give them any hope," Alexander, 26, said.

"We started off a little slow - coach called a time-out and got into us pretty well.

"After that, we picked it up and did what we're supposed to do."

Compatriot Howard, who topped the Slingers' scoring board with 24 points, said the victory was not just down to him.

He said: "It's always five on the court; basketball is a team game.

"We have confidence in all of us - at any given moment, anybody can go out there (and do the job)."

Late in the fourth quarter, the Slingers withdrew their imports to field an all-Singapore line-up, giving Toh Qing Huang, Kelvin Lim and John Ng some minutes on the court.

Explaining the decision, assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "We had a 31-point lead, and that's a great opportunity to give some of the guys that don't play much some court time.

"We're happy to get them on there.

"It's important to us that we get as many Singaporeans on the floor as we can."

The top four teams will enter the play-offs, where games will be played in a best-of-three format.


This article was first published on Jan 25, 2016.
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