“It’s not enough, it’s not enough,” said Dragons head coach Christopher Thomas at the end of the game losing nine points in their first meet against the causeway rivals Singapore Slingers.

The Slingers took home their first win of the Straits Cup meet, ended the Dragons two winning streak at home, 85-94. The Singaporean team are defending the cup this season for the third time since the first Straits Cup back-to-back matches in the ABL 2015-2016.

Westports Malaysia Dragons and Singapore Slingers won the cup once in the last two seasons.

In this 31st meet between the two rivals since the inception of ABL in 2009, this loss by the Dragons will mark 17-14 results between the two, albeit a close game.

“I don’t get frustrated too often but this is a frustrating this game because we have this game at our fingertips. We were getting exactly what we wanted. We were getting them into a trap and our spacing was ridiculously good in the first half and we just threw it all in the trash can.

“They (Slingers) did not make any adjustments in the second half. We made a decision that we put it all on our own shoulders and trusting what worked. It will never be going to win you a basketball game,” said Thomas.

Dragons’ Marcus Marshall led the team with 22 points, 6 rebounds while Joshua Munzon and Kuek Tian Yuan recorded at 15 points, 7 rebounds and 12 points, 8 rebounds respectively.

Marcus Marshall crossing defender Mitchell Folkoff

Marcus Marshall crossing defender Mitchell Folkoff

Slingers’ Xavier Alexander and Christien Charles won the game big at 58 points combined, 33 points and 25 points respectively. It was also another big game for the player of the game, Delvin Goh who scored 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

All was in place, but it did not last long enough

The Dragons had it all in place in the first half of the game, setting up Slingers and pushing them over for a lead by the end of the halftime by eight points.

In the first quarter, Dragons and Slingers were going head-to-head, marking high scoring percentage in the early game. Baskets after baskets, the Slingers were already making an early mark on Marshall by Alexander but it was Marshall’s three-pointer that broke that lead away, 12-10 midway through the quarter.

The Slingers were defending hard on the Dragons and sealed the first quarter with a narrow lead of a point ahead of the home team, 22-23. Both teams were in a high scoring game, although Slingers were scoring at 58.8 percent, the Dragons fared well at 53.3 percent (8 out of 15 attempts).

All that is not lost, Dragons quickly regained their fast-paced game scoring eight points in the run from two successive three-pointers by Marshall and Kuek, later another fast break layup by Munzon.

Dragons were already ahead in the first three minutes of the second quarter by five points, 32-27.

Despite a tie at 32-32 from a bad pass that gave the Slingers a window to slow the pace down, the Dragons took on a rally of a scoring run of 8-0 over the Slingers.

The Malaysian team were on the biggest lead so far at 40-32 in the last four minutes before the halftime break. It did not last long for the Dragons at a comfortable lead, the Slingers continue to press on the home team and slashed the lead down to five points as the clock winded down to the last two minutes, 42-37.

The Dragons managed to hit their best lead so far in the quarter at 9 points and ended the halftime at 8 points lead over Slingers, 47-39.

“All 16 of their fast break points were in the paint and I thought we did a very nice job when they have to play on the half court, we were excellent.

“Tremendous defense in the half court, execution defense which we kept it really tight and they had to take tough shots,” said Thomas when asked about the 16 fast break points by the Slingers compared to Dragons at only 2.

Losing focus in the second half

The third quarter did not start well for the Dragons when the Slingers were quick to catch up, scoring 6-0 to close the lead down to two, 47-45.

Dragons’ Ting Chun Hong broke the dry spell for the team with his three-pointer, 50-45.

Chun Hong loading up the barrel for a 3

Chun Hong loading up the barrel for a 3

Foul troubles started brewing for the Dragons with four team fouls giving away penalty shots for the Slingers to shave the lead down to one point, 50-49.

Slingers’ Chris Charles tied the game at 53-53 with a double clutch dunk in the last four minutes of third quarter. Although it was quite a dismal quarter for the Dragons with just 17 points compared to Slingers’ 28 points, the Dragons were back trailing by three points, 64-67 at the end of the third quarter.

The game began to look dimmer for the Dragons in the early part of the quarter with only three points to the basket as the Slingers surged ahead with a strong lead by 7 points, 67-74.

It was not too late for the Dragons to try to cut the lead down and hope was kept alive with Ting’s three-pointer, 70-74. With just five minutes down the road, Slingers had the largest lead in the game with 9 points but later Munzon took it off with Marshall with five points score in the run to shave the lead down to four, 77-81.

As the clock ticked down to the final two minutes to end the game, the Dragons struggled the way but closing the game in with just three points deficit at 1:37 minutes, 82-85. It was none other than Cabahug’s crucial three-pointer to keep their hopes alive in the game.

The chances to regain the lead again fell off the board, Dragons missed two shots in the final two minutes giving away opportunities to the Slingers to extend their lead from Delvin Goh and Chris Charles.

Looking frustrated, Thomas reiterated to his team on multiple efforts defensively to clamp down the opponents in the court.

“We have them to do exactly we want to do. I talk so much about multiple efforts defensively. Your job is not done defensively until you secure the basketball and until they turn it over. Your job is not done until they make a shot. That’s what makes you be on offence.

“You can’t just do one thing defensively. You have to play the entire 24 seconds shot clock and you have to secure a defensive rebound for us to come down to score,” he added.

“I thought our focus in the second half was absolutely pitiful and pathetic. If we don’t change our attention to detail, these next two games on the road (Chongson Kungfu and Singapore Slingers), we are starting up an uphill climb.”

Westports Malaysia Dragons will be heading off to a road trip week and will be meeting Chongson Kungfu, January 25 at 7.30PM, Nanhai Gymnasium, Guangdong, China.

Statistics

Westports Malaysia Dragons
Marcus Marshall (22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals)
Joshua Munzon (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals)
Kuek Tian Yuan (12 points, 8 rebounds)
AJ West (11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks)
Ting Chun Hong (9 points, 2 steals)
Patrick Cabahug (8 points)

Singapore Slingers
Xavier Alexander (33 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals)
Christien Charles (25 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists)
Delvin Goh (16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists)
AJ Mandani (8 points, 7 rebounds)