Winning a second home game just days ago was no sweeter victory for the Westports Malaysia Dragons, taking down Saigon Heat for their second consecutive win.

Dragons did not hold back their bid and doused the Heat in their recent two wins last week against Chongson Kungfu and Hong Kong Eastern. The Malaysian team sealed the win in a fashionable way of slaying the ‘giant slayer’ by four points, 91-87.

It was pouring heavily right before the game started but the crowd started to trickle into MABA Stadium Kuala Lumpur in the first meet against Saigon Heat during the middle of the week.

Just a minute away before the end of the game when the Dragons were already leading by seven points, speedy Akeem Scott of Saigon Heat who led the team with an impressive 44 points in the game nearly caught up with the Dragons with his two back-to-back three-pointers.

The team held up well and Marcus Marshall returned the basket from the perimeter to keep a distance for the Dragons that finally sealed that victory for the team.

“First of all, I thought I could shoot the ball a little bit better, I feel I can do better than that. As far as the defensive end, even though Scott got a 44, credits to him because he guard really well and he’s a tough player.

“I just try to do everything to help the team win. I just don’t want to be only the offensive guard,” Marshall said.

Marshall scored 25 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists while AJ West and Joshua Munzon took on a double-double with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 18 points, 10 rebounds respectively.

Dragons’ head coach Christopher Thomas credited the win to the team’s transition defense as the key to their success.

“Hats off to them, they’re a very good team. They had a player (Scott) dropping 44 points on us and you know they are getting their guys in the right spot. I thought tonight our effort within the transition defense as the portion of the game was the key to our success. Obviously, we’ve made a big time commitment to that and it reflects on our last two wins.

“Easily our best two defensive efforts, solely because we made a commitment to sprint back every time. Solely because the fact that we are forcing teams to score over the top of us instead of around us,” he added.

Slow start for the Dragons, Heat brings the fire

Heat’s Scott led early baskets for the team, raking points in threes with Arnold to a 6-point lead in the first four minutes of the quarter, 3-9. The Dragons finally hit their first basket from Munzon from the downtown, making only one out of six.

Ting pushed the Heat and crawled the way back for the Dragons with a back to back three-pointer to shave Heat’s lead to a point, 9-10. As the clock ticked down midway to the quarter, the Dragons reclaimed the lead from the Heat by two points after a basket by Marshall, 12-10.

Possessions after possessions, Ting hustled his way driving into the paint tying the game at 14-14 and moments after that, Ivan Yeo sank a three-pointer extending the lead for the Dragons to five points in the final minute of the quarter, 19-14.

The Dragons kept the lead ahead at the end of the quarter with the last jump shot by Patrick Cabahug ending it with a five-point lead, 21-16.

When asked after the match, Ting admitted it was challenging to guard against Heat’s Akeem Scott but he believed that he will still try to improve it along the way.

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“When I was tasked to guard Scott, I admit I was rather nervous and I tried my best to execute it. I tried to get as close as I could and he was certainly very hot with his hands in the game.

“Looking at my personal performance so far, I think I can still try to improve it. I think I didn’t do that well in the second half of the game and if I have defended Scott well enough, he wouldn’t have scored 44 points in total. He was really fast and I tried my best to guard him. I don’t think I did that well enough,” said Ting.

Moments after the short break at the end of the first quarter, Heat never settled for Dragons to take on the lead. A steal by Scott shaved Dragons lead to two points, the home team did not let those easy baskets.

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Right before the time-out midway through the second quarter, Munzon dunked and the Dragons were inches away to a double-digit lead, 37-29. Trading baskets after baskets, AJ lived up to his nickname and denied Akeem Scott in the paint. The possession quickly transitioned for the Dragons’ first double-digit lead by 11 points from Munzon’s three-pointer, 47-36.

The quarter ended at ten points lead to the Dragons with Ting’s last three-pointer basket, 50-40. In this quarter alone, the Dragons outpaced the opponent with 29 points while the Heat came in close at 24 points.

Saigon turned up the heat, Dragons feeling the burn

Saigon turned up the heat in the third quarter, sinking two successive three-pointers from Esho and Scott, putting the Dragons in a red zone without any baskets, 50-46.

Marshall put an end to drought while keeping it cool along with fellow Dragons, hitting a three to place Dragons ahead again, 53-46. Heat’s Morgan ramped up the game and shutting down Dragons’ defense with a back-to-back baskets shaving the lead down to two, 57-55.

However, Dragons rattled in the court as Esho tied the game at 57-57 in the last three minutes of the quarter and that did not stop Heat from their concerted offensive effort and started hitting in threes by Esho and Scott, marking their 25 points score over Dragons’ 9 points.

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The Dragons were already trailing by 6 points behind Heat, 59-65 in the last two minutes of the quarter. Things started to turn back for the Dragons as the team finally caught up with the Heat and ended the quarter with the last three-pointer by Marshall, 69-66.

The Heat was keeping the Dragons on their toes throughout the match and the home team was off to a fresh start in the final quarter, pacing a much better rhythm and taking on a 10-5 scoring in the run.

The Malaysian team was already leading by eight points ahead of Heat in the last five minutes of the game, 79-71. Dragons finally returned to a comfortable lead when Marcus Marshall took another three-point to put the home team at 11 points lead, 82-71.

The crowd went frenzy as Heat tried to close the deficit down but it was Munzon’s long shot three-pointer that got the fans riled up in the final two minutes of the game.

“I think our effort was nice to get our first winning streak going at the year but at the end of the day, it’s one game. We see these guys three more times and we are going to make our adjustments when we see them again here.

“Overall, I’m very satisfied with who we were defensively and really look forward to playing against these guys again. They’re a very good team and they’ll be right there when the season ends. In the hunt for the playoffs and in the hunt for the championships. We will embrace that when we see them again,” said Thomas.

Westports Malaysia Dragons will be playing against Singapore Slingers on January 21 at 2.30PM MABA Stadium Kuala Lumpur.
Statistics:
Westports Malaysia Dragons
Marcus Marshall (25 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists)
AJ West (19 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists)
Joshua Munzon (18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals)
Ting Chun Hong (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists)
Patrick Cabahug (7 points, 3 rebounds)
Ivan Yeo (5 points, 6 rebounds)

Saigon Heat
Akeem Scott (44 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)
Moses Morgan (18 points, 10 rebounds)
Maxie Esho (15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks)
David Arnold (6 points, 8 assists, 2 steals)

by Norman Goh