When the final whistle marked the end of the final circuit with the Slingers, the Dragons came close to clamp down the win against their arch rival at home trying their best to redeem their loss.

Breaking into an overtime century game, Westports Malaysia Dragons fell short in a home game with Singapore Slingers, defeated in a razor-thin three point deficit, 110-113.

The tenth game of the season for the Dragons, midway into the season relegated the team to the bottom of the league after the loss while Slingers maintained in the top two alongside Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions after sealing a 4-0 game against the Dragons.

“I think we’ve proved tonight that we are a completely different basketball team. I loved the way we play in the open floor. We in a good place roster wise. The third quarter continues to be a tough spot for us but we finally punch back.

“We took a punch and we came back to get to them. We probably should’ve won the game but things happen. Couple of mistakes there and here. You’ll never know and I like where we are and continue to be aggressive and to push the pace,” Dragons’ head coach Christopher Thomas said.

All is not a loss for the Dragons despite being dragged in the ‘curse’ of the third quarter, falling off the momentum to keep the game alive.

For Samuel ‘Kiwi’ Keyondrei Gardner, Dragons’ newcomer scored an impressive 37 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 7 steals in his debut game. Skylar Spencer recorded a double-double with 27 points and 16 rebounds.

“I don’t even realise (scoring 37 points), I was just trying to play hard. No matter points I have if I have made one more free throw, we would’ve won the game at the end of the day.

“I wish I could turn the season around and get on a winning pace. I mean, no matter how hard we play, we are still a young team,” the 23 year old Kiwi said after the game.

Towards the last ten seconds of the fourth quarter before breaking into the overtime, Kiwi missed his crucial two free throws. Slingers’ Xavier Alexander took advantage of the remaining time to tie the game with at 99 points.

Early lead advantage for Dragons

The match began with an early lead by the Dragons with Kiwi showing off his skills alongside his team mates to take on an early lead with 6-0 scores in the run in the first four minutes in the game.

Loh Shee Fai dropped a bombshell from the arc with his first three point shot as Slingers closing in to close the gap after a minute. Kiwi clamped down the lead for Dragons with another three.

Dragons ahead at 6:04 by 6 points, 12-6.

Slingers quickly equalised the game with Xavier Alexander and Justin Howard’s quick successions of scores but Dragons later regained control of the lead with scores from Shee Fai and Gardner. Dragons still in the lead in the final two minutes of the game at 22-18.

After hustling around for the control, Slingers closed the first quarter at a tie, 21-21, taking a point from Alexander’s free throw.

Intensity ran high from both teams, switching back and forth in the lead. Dragons and Slingers tied the game again at 5:07 towards the half time at 36 points.

Hitting towards the last two minutes of the second quarter, Slingers fell flat with their free throws. Dragons took advantage of the missed shots and bagged 6-2 in the run.

Loh Shee Fai took a step back after booked his early fourth foul in the game.

Kiwi made a run for the for the ball and took a dramatic drop for a foul-in three point shot and closed it for a four point play. He banked 16 points at 46-38.

Towards the last minute before the end of half time was full of dramatic shots including an alley-oop by Skylar Spencer assisted by Gardner. Dragons ended the first half on the high with 9 point lead, 52-63.

The curse of the 3rd Quarter

A turn of events for the Dragons in the third quarter, mellowed down with an early gaffe in the game. The Dragons returned the fire but it was not enough to keep the Slingers by the bay.

The game quickly returned back to the zero ground again at 3:44 as the Slingers equalised the game at 65 points and the Dragons were muzzled in the shots.

Slingers regained the lead again after bagging four points from Xavier Alexander’s lay up shots. In the final minute as the third quarter closes, Dragons seem to be missing several shots and committing more turnovers in the quarter. Slingers ahead by 7 points, a turn of lead at 68-75.

Race to the top, dragged into overtime

Early two minutes into the final quarter, Dragons hit a setback with Kiwi suffering from bad cramps. The Slingers were already ahead by 8 points prior to his rest at the bench.

Without Kiwi in the court, the Dragons were trying hard to wrestle the lead from the Slingers in their final meet of the season. Dragons still in deficit with ten points at the 7th minute, 74-84 after a three-point shot from Wong Wei Long.

After a short two minutes rest, Kiwi came back to the court albeit Dragons falling further behind at the last six minutes, 77-86. Slingers still pushing on the lead with a full court press with the Dragons.

Slingers were having a hard time to penetrate in the court as the clock closing in to the end of the game, but the time was not on the side for the Dragons to take the lead back from their opponent. Slingers remained in the lead in the last four minutes at 84-90.

At 3:03, after much hustling in the court, Munzon’s two points from the free throws gave a breath of hope for the Dragons to claw Slingers down. Right before the time out at 2:39, Kiwi gave another chase in the court and bagged another layup to close at 88-90.

Yi Hou’s crucial two points free throw returned the lead for the Dragons at 1:43 gave a boost for the team followed by another layup by Skylar after Kiwi’s quick steal from Howard’s hand. At 1:24, Dragons back in the lead at 96-93.

Desmond Oh’s three point equalised the game again at 96 points as the clock ran towards the final circuit in the last minute.

A foul on by Alexander on Spencer at the last 23 seconds of the game put Dragons ahead at 99-96 with a three point difference.

Kiwi missed his two free throw shots in the final ten seconds and Slingers pushed the game into overtime after a layup and a free throw from Alexander, tying the game at 99 points into overtime.

As the game returned back for overtime, Joshua Munzon booked his fifth foul and fouled out of the game. Kiwi back to the bench with cramp problems. Without Kiwi and Munzon in the paint, the Dragons had a tough time holding off Slingers in a close match.

Game was tied again at 3:23 after a quick fast break by Loh Shee Fai, launching the pass to Ma Chee Khuen for a quick layup, 101-101. The last two minutes in the overtime, Dragons faced slew of fouls as Slingers took advantage to lead by two points, 104-106.

Back in the court again, Kiwi dribbled the ball all the way to the basket to equalise the game at 1:18, tying both teams at 106 points.

Without Kok Hou, Shee Fai and Munzon in the paint, Dragons were running out of ammo to close the overtime in their favour. The match ended with the final free throws from Kiwi, making two out of three but it was not enough to close it in at 110-113.

The Dragons will be heading off to Hong Kong to play against Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions at 8PM, Southorn Stadium, Wan Chai.

Written by: Norman Goh