Going to a fresh new start of the new year, Westports Malaysia Dragons fell short in their first attempt to redeem the previous two losing matches before the break.

Malaysia Dragons were overpowered in a good matchup against Philippines’ Alab Pilipinas by 11 points, 90-79.

Dragons managed to take on Alab to a lockdown twice in the third quarter but fell apart in the final quarter as the home team sealed their second winning streak after defeating Formosa Dreamers previously, 61-78.

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Returning Asean heritage player for the Dragons, Joshua Munzon did not disappoint the team with a stellar play in his first returning game, scoring 21 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists.

Marcus Marshall took 17 points while newcomer AJ West picked up well in the second half too with 16 points and 22 rebounds. Ting Chun Hong continued his stellar play with 13 points and 9 assists in the game alongside Ivan Yeo with 8 points.

Dragons began the game on a slow start as both teams also faced a low scoring quarter scoring less than ten points on both courts.

Alab pinched their way ahead with a 7-point lead ahead of Dragons midway in the first quarter, 12-5. The Dragons fumbled with an early 5 turnovers but picked up slowly after a substitution with Ivan Yeo and Ting Chun Hong in the court.

Right after Ivan’s quick layup, Alab extended their lead to 13 points, 20-7 after Lawrence Domingo and Justin Brownlee took more baskets, forcing the Dragons to slow the game down.

Munzon pulled his strings together and took on the basket with a successive six points including a three-point basket to end the first quarter at 23-13. The Dragons initially struggled and later took 7 turnovers compared to Alab’s two turnovers.

Dragons turning up the heat

Coming off the paint, Munzon led the Dragons with a three-point and jump shot together with Marshall for a seven-point early scoring run to close the gap to 23-20 in the first three minutes of the second quarter.

It was a double-digit a while ago in the first quarter, the Dragons turned the rhythm up, stopping Alab at the bay adjusting to the game. Although AJ West only managed a basket in the first quarter, his 11 rebounds by the midway of the second quarter were crucial for the team.

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AJ West attempting to block Renaldo Balkman’s shot.

Dynamic duos Munzon and Marshall caught up with the Alab just two points behind after another five points scoring run, 29-27 as the clock ticked down to the final four minutes before the halftime break.

Ivan Yeo’s crucial three-point basket, making his first was quickly returned by Joshua Urbiztondo with a back-to-back three points score, 37-30 in the last two minutes of the second quarter.

Closing the first half at 39-32, the Dragons improved and outscored the home team with 19 points compared to Alab’s 16 points. Alab nearly had a heart attack when Dragons shaved their lead to a two-point difference and later made their run off the points from Urbiztondo and Robbie Celiz.

Patience for the Dragons but trouble brews at the end

Patience paid off well for the Dragons, AJ West pushed his game ahead with a massive 10 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter.

Single-handedly equalised Alab’s offense on his own, Munzon too returned more baskets to close it up with Alab. Dragons was still trailing by only four points, 51-47.

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Ting Chun Hong back-to-back five points from his three-pointer followed by Marshall’s perimeter shot shaved Alab’s lead to one point, 56-55.

Soon after Renaldo Balkman (Alab) equalised the game at 58-58, Ivan Yeo answered the call with another perimeter shot to return the lead back to the Dragons, 58-61 in the final two minutes of the third quarter.

The second deadlock in the final minute of the third quarter at 63-63 gave an opening for Brownlee’s three-pointer and followed by dishing out an assist to Balkman’s buzzer-beater layup ending the quarter at 68-63.

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Early foul out for Kuek Tian Yuan as he booked his fifth from a technical foul at the start of the fourth quarter proved too costly for the Dragons.

Alab Pilipinas took advantage of the struggle and took on the largest lead in the game to 15 points, 81-66 in the early three minutes. The home team’s 13-3 scoring run was too costly as tension running up high as Alab’s Balkman took on 7 points from the 13.

Dragons were unable to hold back Alab as the new duo Balkman and Brownlee rummaged on the court pushing to a larger lead.

Although the Dragons struggled to pace it up and adjusting to their opponents, they were playing a much better game as they progress in the league for the remaining matches before the playoffs.

Westports Malaysia Dragons will be playing their third game against Mono Vampire on January 12, 8PM (Malaysia time) at Bangkok, Thailand.

Statistics

Westports Malaysia Dragons
Joshua Munzon – 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists
Marcus Marshall – 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
AJ West – 16 points, 22 rebounds
Ting Chun Hong – 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Ivan Yeo – 8 points, 5 rebounds

Alab Pilipinas
Justin Brownlee – 29 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Renaldo Balkman – 17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Joshua Urbiztondo – 13 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals
Robbie Celiz – 10 points, 3 rebounds

BYLINE Norman Goh