CYBERJAYA – It was a truly nail-biting match between the two teams. Both formidable in their own ways, but Westports Malaysia Dragons succumb to a close defeat by Singapore Slingers at home grounds as they lost 76-81.

The game was held in Gem-In Mall, Cyberjaya instead of the Dragons’ Den (Malaysian Basketball Association) in Kuala Lumpur due to renovations to improve their facility.

Despite the change of venue, fans still filled up the seats, some even got off theirs to cheer on as their home team went up against the league’s current leader.

Dragons got off to a good early start, banking shots and dunks all over the place, finishing the first quarter with 6 points ahead at 27-21.

Things were looking up for them then, but the Slingers proved to be formidable opponents, pushing hard with offense, dominating the first few minutes of the second quarter, then squeezing by and finally took the lead half way through the quarter.

But the Dragons wouldn’t let down as both teams were neck-to-neck all the way up to the third quarter. Neither teams have had more than double digit point lead.

Fans were off their seats by the final quarter as the intensity continued to rile them up. The quarter started off at 56-58, which then was changed 10 seconds after the starting buzzer as Marcus Melvin scores a massive 3-point, which was then replied by Howard’s 2-pointer.

Both team were on top of their of their game throughout the last 10 minutes of the match. However Dragons missed a couple of openings which led the Slingers to a 6 point lead in the final 3 minutes of the match.

Spirits were unbroken as the Malaysian team fought hard to close the gap but with the Slingers playing at their top form even at the end, the task proved to be a challenge. Many times were the Dragons able to close the gap but misfired from long range.

Top scorers of the match were Spencer at 19 points and 15 rebounds, Melvin at 17 points 11 rebounds and Teo Kok Hou with 12 points and 4 defensive rebounds.

Worth mentioning is the Slingers’ Justin Howard with 26 points and a whopping 27 rebounds, 25 of which were defensive.

When asked about his team’s performance that night, Coach Thomas said, “To put up that many points (76) in a 40 minutes game without going to the foul line much, I’m pretty happy where we are offensively.”

“Defensively, we did a heck of a job but they (Slingers) had many uncontested shots.” He added. “We’re going back to take a look at the film, dissect where we are and we’ll keep getting better.”

Comparing his team since their first match on 25th November last year Coach said, “Sometimes the process is more than important than the results, we’re in the results driven business, wins and loss are why we do this, but at the end of the day it’s all about getting better.”

“We’re still the youngest team of the league, and that’s not going to change all year. That being our third game of the league, as long as we get a fair rest, we’ll be ready on Sunday.”

The Asean Basketball League (ABL) season standings were not the only thing at stake that night, as both teams were fighting for the second edition of the Straits Cup. With this lost, the Slingers have a 5 point lead over the Dragons as they head into the 2nd leg of the cup this Sunday.

In this short two-match cup, the winner would be chosen by wins first, then point difference. In the first edition of the Straits Cup last year, Dragons won by a 3 point difference, losing their first match at 88-85, then coming back at 84-79 at home.

The next match will be Sunday, 8th January at Singapore’s OCBC Arena.

Written by : Benjamin Lim