Dragons Stay In Hunt for 4th Seed, Eliminate Truth From Playoff Contention

In last year’s historic championship season, the final home game of the Westports Malaysia Dragons resulted in the team celebrating their first title in ASEAN Basketball League history.

Flash forward to today, and the Dragons have reason to celebrate their final game at home once again, via a convincing 103-78 win over the Kaohsiung Truth.

“Today we wanted to come out, in our last home game, and put on a show for our fans,” Heritage Import Josh Munzon said.

Malaysia would also have to win without their Head Coach Chris Thomas, who was suspended for amassing several technical fouls in the season. However Gardner shared that the team was ready to secure the win even without Thomas.

“Coach was preparing us all week, as early as when we got to the gym Monday,” Gardner shared.
“We knew he wasn’t going to be here, so we decided to get into our mindset, come out and play, compete, and do our thing.”

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The Dragons did exactly that, and in the process eliminated the Truth from Playoff contention. The highest the Truth can climb in the standings is in a tie with current fourth seed Saigon Heat, and due to a lower quotient they cannot leapfrog the Vietnamese squad.

However the Dragons are still alive. They did their part to remain in the hunt for the Playoffs. Now they’ll just have to hope that fortune favors them

The home team came out with a ton of energy and confidence, as a result of their two game winning streak on the road. Skylar Spencer also started things in style with a monster two handed dunk, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

The Dragons were able to exploit the holes in the Truth’s defense, by moving the ball unselfishly and finding the open shooter. They had five assists in the first quarter alone, putting them ahead when Kaohsiung threatened to sieze the lead. They finished the first periodup 9 points, an encouraging sign for the home team.

Things wouldn’t get better for the Truth in the second quarter, as the defending champions began to turn up the heat. Turnovers were the biggest culprit, as the Truth coughed up the ball a whopping 10 times in the quarter alone. World Import Kiwi Gardner was a nightmare for the Truth, as he would routinely swipe away the ball from big men in his vicinity.

Malaysia would also find the range from the perimeter, as they began to pull away. Skylar Spencer and Josh Munzon each had monster slams in the quarter, stretching the lead to 19 points at the half, 49-30.

The Dragons would not let up in the third quarter, as they continued to score from the outside and through slams to stay ahead of the Truth. Raymar Jose played like a man possessed, racking up 12 points in the period to keep fighting for Kaohsiung, but the Dragons simply had a response for every Truth shot.

With a commanding lead heading into the final 10 minutes, Westports Malaysia took care of business, preserving their double digit lead en route to the resounding victory. It was a wire-to-wire win, emblematic of their inspired play to finish the ABL season.

“We’ve been hot lately,” Munzon said. “That’s three in a row for us in tough environments. We had a game in the Philippines, tough environment. Last week in Saigon, tough environment.”

“That’s how we’ve been trying to play for 40 minutes,” Gardner added. “We’ve been trying to come out at a high level, and end on a high level.”

Munzon paced the Dragons with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, followed by Spencer’s 26 points on 11/16 from the field. He also tallied 11 rebounds and 4 steals.

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Gardner was judged best player of the game because of his efforts on defense. His 8 steals in the ballgame tied the record for the second most number of steals by an individual in ABL history. He also flirted with a triple double, adding 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Raymar Jose paced the Truth with 25 points and 3 rebounds, followed by Derek Hall’s 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists.

The Dragons must now await the results of the Saigon Heat’s matchup with the Singapore Slingers on Sunday, March 19. A win by the Heat will eliminate the Dragons. A loss will keep Malaysia alive in the race for the fourth seed.

“We just had to do our part,” Munzon stated. “We know Saigon needs to lose the rest of their games to get in, but we had to give ourselves a chance.”

“Winning this game gives us a chance, and we’ll just have to see what happens.”