Who would have thought it has been the third season since the very first Straits Cup started in the midst of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) season began three years ago? Westports Malaysia Dragons will be looking to snatch the cup back home in this third edition of Straits Cup and will be hosting the first match this Sunday at the MABA Stadium Kuala Lumpur. In the last season, Singapore Slingers won the second series of the cup, defeating Malaysia Dragons in both meets during the back-to-back weekend matches alternating between the two countries. Last year at Gem-in-Mall “There is not an easy game in our league. I think Jericho (ABL’s chief operating officer) has done such a tremendous job of adding basketball countries where it matters to them, adding organisations that care,” head coach Christopher Thomas said after the game against Saigon Heat. The only two remaining pioneer teams in the league since the early inception of ABL in 2009, Malaysia Dragons and Singapore Slingers have seen much growth and development in the basketball industry through the years for respective countries. “Two veterans. I respect them a lot. Chris Charles to me is the definition of doing things the right. He has worked hard in his career. He’s 35 and he is in tremendous shape. He brings another level to the team. “Just like us, they (Slingers) made an adjustment during the break. They brought in much better rim protection just like what Taiwan did. They’re better off for it and there isn’t much I can add about Xavier Alexander, the guy has been a triple-double machine in our league,” said Thomas. Eyeing the prize of returning the cup in the hands of the Dragons, head coach Christopher Thomas is looking forward to meeting the Slingers this week, aiming for the third consecutive win at home. Kwek vs Munzon during the 2016-2017 Straits Cup Asked about his plans to counter the feisty, fast-paced Slingers, Thomas knew that the Singaporean team is among the best defensive team in the league and it takes a lot more effort to clamp them down for a win. “We got to speed the game up against them and that is no secret about it. That has been sort of our game plan against them all four times last season. You can’t allow them to establish a defensive rhythm. The more we score in transition, the more we push the pace and as long as we continue to our focus on our defensive transition wise, we give ourselves a chance to win. “But boy, they’re talented and AJ Mandani has been phenomenal. They are going to be a handful on Sunday and again it is a challenge we are looking forward to. “It is an important game for us and the people of Malaysia so we are going to throw a lot on the line and hopefully, the chips fall our way.” In the bid for the Straits Cup, the winner takes it all. Both teams will meet in two matches and in the case of a 1-1 win, the score difference in the two meets will determine the winner of the cup. Westports Malaysia Dragons will be facing Singapore Slingers on January 21 at 2.30PM, MABA Stadium Kuala Lumpur and will head to Singapore for the second meet on January 28 at 4.30PM, OCBC Arena.