With less than a day to go, Westports Malaysia Dragons are out to break their streak for a fresher start this week with back-to-back matches away and home.

The Dragons will meet Mono Vampires for the third time, losing one match and winning their first meet in a double overtime thriller. This time, with a much different roster, compared to the previous two games.

Back in Malaysia, it will be the first match against the newcomer, Formosa Dreamers this Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, bringing in a much-contested match in the league after almost all teams in the franchise shuffled their players line up in the bid for a slot in the playoffs.

For the Dragons, it will be a do or die for the team. Then again, for many of the fans may wonder at the start of the league, two East Asian teams were dominating the league in the last two months.

However, Hong Kong Eastern’s loss to Saigon Heat was the first to break the long winning streak while Chongson Kungfu still reigned at the top.

As Dragons’ head coach Christopher Thomas pointed out, their downfall has not been about the ‘collapse’ in the final quarter, but rather a step towards turning a tide for the team.

“Transition defence has been bad, it has been a failing grade for us thus far. We are going to keep correcting that and if we guard in transition, there is no doubt in my mind we will do the right way.

“I have a group of guys that get tired very easily, lose focus and concentration when they get on both ends of the floor. Forget about the things that made them successful when they’re tired. Our main focus is on conditioning, transition defence and if we execute those things when we are tired, we are going to be just fine,” Thomas said.

He added that he believes his players are a resilient team and they are going to see it as they grow together this season.

“Things are not going to go your way, sometimes things thrown at you are not fair but it is how you react, how you respond to those things that determine successes as a basketball player.”

Two notable local players have been stepping up their game and getting more head turns as they progressed into their second season in the ABL.

Ting Chun Hong and Ivan Yeo showcased their best performance thus far in the early stage of the league, making strides in their progress.

In the last season, Ting only averaged 10 minutes per game, a stark difference compared to this season with 25 minutes in the last four matches. Ting scores an average of 11.2 points and 4 rebounds per game.

“Mei Mei (Ting Chun Hong) has been fantastic. He has earned every opportunity given to him. This is just the beginning for him. He’s got a very bright future and going to reflect throughout the course of the season.

“His growth and development are really comforting as a coach. I know with him, I can play without a doubt and I can depend on him. His role and place in this team will continue to grow,” head coach Chris Thomas said.

Ivan’s third season stint with the Dragons have shown much improvement since 2015. He played an average of 6.2 minutes in the last two seasons but now at 23 minutes per game with 7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Ivan is also stretching out his abilities as a firepower from the perimeter too.

“Ivan has proven to be able to guard the imports, do the little things we asked him to do and I think he holds the record for the most rebounds for a local player in the ABL.

” He gets to a point when he misses, you’ll see Ivan pushes the basketball. He could easily become a forty percent three-point shooter. He’s really impressed me with his ability to stretch the floor, playing inside out and that’s the way the game going in every country right now. Ivan has proven to be capable of doing that.”

Westports Malaysia Dragons will be facing Mono Vampire on January 12 at 8PM (Malaysian time) in Bangkok, Thailand.

by Norman Goh