Hong Kong Overcomes Elliott Ejection to Tie ABL Finals With Game 2 Win

Without their leader on the floor to finish Game 2 of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals, the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions could have easily wilted under the pressure and fallen into an 0-2 hole against the Singapore Slingers.

Instead they responded together as a group and pulled off the team’s biggest win in their maiden season.

Playing through the ejection of World import Marcus Elliott, an injury sustained by Josh Boone, and two key players fouling out, Hong Kong Eastern picked up an emotional 92-84 victory, tying up the ABL Finals at 1-1.

“Our mindset was no matter what happens, we have to stick together and keep our energy up to pull out this win,” Heritage import Tyler Lamb shared after their huge victory.

That’s exactly what the Long Lions had to do in the second half, as Elliott was whistled for back-to-back technical fouls in the third quarter after complaining about a foul trying to defend Xavier Alexander. Hong Kong needed to find a way to compete without their MVP candidate, as they still had an entire fourth period to play.

However, things got worse for the Long Lions, as Boone sustained an apparent ankle injury fighting for a loose ball. He would leave to game momentarily, before re-entering to the roar of fans inside the Southorn Stadium.

With Boone and Lamb leading the way, Hong Kong was able to stave off a final Singapore run in the fourth quarter. Alexander tried to lead a final charge in the final two minutes of the game, but the Long Lions got contributions from several players in Elliott’s absence to hold on for the win.

“I think our style was different [compared to Game 1] because we passed more,” veteran Lee Ki shared. “Our ability is not for one person to do everything. We just passed and created the space to shoot the ball.”

Playing with a sense of desperation from tipoff, Hong Kong got the jump on Singapore in the first quarter, as Elliott was aggressive looking to initiate his offense in order to lead the charge. It was a different approach compared to how he began Game 1.

“I was just passive the first game, trying to feel my way out,” Elliott said. “And it didn’t work for me. I should’ve just forced it, but i tried to save energy.”

The aggression with which the Long Lions played was also evident on the defensive end, as they applied pressure on Justin Howard and Josh Urbiztondo, the duo who led the scoring attack for Singapore in Game 1.

“That was our game plan,” Lee bared. “Last game, we gave him too easy shots and rebounds. Today, we gave 100% [effort] on defense, particularly with Howard.”

As a result, Howard was limited to only 11 points at the half, while Urbiztondo only had three. The Long Lions also had a significant advantage in fastbreak points, 11-0. The team was looking to run fast and often to prevent Singapore from setting up their half-court defense.

“We agreed that we have to be aggressive on both ends, and we did that,” Hong Kong Head Coach Edu Torres said. “What he [Howard] did on Saturday, I have no words. I haven’t seen anything like that my whole life. We tried to do our best, but we were shocked. We just played more aggressive and physical.”

Singapore was able to stay in striking distance in the 3rd quarter, before they made their run behind an aggressive Alexander and Howard. They were able to get within six points in the third canto, before the ejection of Marcus Elliott changed the complexion of the game.

The Long Lions looked to seal the win with a big run at the start of the fourth quarter, before Boone suffered an injury. He would eventually return to the ballgame and gut it out for his team, limiting the production of Howard in the paint.

Key members of the squad, Steven Guinchard and Fong Shing Yee, would also foul out at different junctures of the quarter. But despite the obstacles, the Long Lions would still find a way. Boone scored 5 points in the period to lead Hong Kong, while also getting solid contributions from Lee, Guinchard, and Fong Shing Yee.

The Slingers would make one last comeback attempt, as a Howard jumper trimmed the deficit to five, 86-81 with 35 seconds remaining. However a booming triple from seldom used Lau Tsz Lai would put the game away, sealing the win for the Long Lions.

“It was a wasted opportunity,” Alexander admitted. “With those two out, our game plan was to take advantage. At the end of the day, we didn’t execute.”

Boone had a sterling bounce back performance with 23 points, 16 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks for Hong Kong. The team also got well-rounded contributions from Lamb with 13 points and Lee with 10. Chan and Fong combined for 13 points, in an all-around effort for the squad.

Despite being ejected in the third quarter, Elliott still paced Hong Kong with 26 points.

“Nobody is above the team,” Elliott said about his team’s effort to secure the win. “It’s a five man sport, it doesn’t revolve around one player.”

After scoring 45 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in Game 1, Howard was limited to 19 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Alexander paced Singapore with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Urbiztondo tallied 9 points after his 23 point Game 1 effort.

Despite the loss, Singapore remains optimistic about their chances to win the championship, as the series shifts to the Lion City for Games 3 and 4 of the Finals.

“We got two games at home to end it all, besides going home 2-0, you can’t really ask for more. I got confidence in my teammates, and in myself. [I’m] looking forward to Game 3 at home.”

Game 3 is set for Friday April 21, 8:00 PM at the OCBC Arena in Singapore.