Long Lions Find Strength in Each Other for Audacious Game 2 Win

At the 2:03 mark of the third quarter, Marcus Elliott was whistled for two straight technical fouls, the biggest development in an intensely fought Game 2 of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals.

One of the top candidates for World Import – MVP in the ABL, Elliott would have to leave for remainder of the game, putting the Long Lions in a dire situation where they could potentially be down 0-2 against a tough Singapore Slingers team.

And just when things looked like it couldn’t possibly get worse, Josh Boone crumpled to the ground with 8:53 still remaining in the final period. Suffering an ankle injury, Boone had to take a seat, with his return uncertain. 

The score was tied 70-all. The stage was set for the Slingers to return to Singapore, one win away from their first ABL championship.

But Hong Kong Eastern wouldn’t allow it. The Lion City was waiting to welcome back their team, but these Long Lions were determined to defend their home.

And they did exactly that.

Nobody is above the team,” Elliott said after Hong Kong’s miraculous 92-84 win. “Not me, not the coach, not Josh, not any import or anything. That’s why its a team. It’s a five man sport, it doesn’t revolve around one player.”

Hong Kong showed just that throughout Game 2. While Game 1 was about the dominating offensive individual performances of Justin Howard and Josh Urbiztondo, Hong Kong responded by showcasing the depth of their squad. From the starters all the way to every bench player fielded, Hong Kong withstood their stars’ absence and put on a performance for the ages.

“We just had to work on being mentally strong and come back from whatever the game gave us,” Heritage import Tyler Lamb said. “My guys we were able to stick together and pull it off.”

It might seem like Hong Kong hasn’t been tested in the midst of their dominating run this season, but that isn’t the case. Singapore has tested Hong Kong all season long, the only team that has made a dent on the almost-impenetrable armor of the Long Lions. And they almost ended up with three losses, if not for another improbable comeback in the final two minutes of a December 7, 2016 game inside the Southorn Stadium.

Singapore was up by 13 points, with 1:44 left in the game. But somehow, Hong Kong found a way to send the game into overtime and eventually hack out a 90-77 victory.

Lost in the hoopla of that comeback was that the Long Lions weren’t even 100%, as Elliott recalls.

“Our first win against Singapore, we didn’t have Tyler, he went out in the first quarter. You know he’s a great addition, he’s a big part of our team but you know if somebody goes down, you know, it doesn’t really matter.”

“We’ve got other guys that are just as good,” continues Elliott. “Guys that work hard in practice that come off the bench, and our coaching staff does a good job of placing the right combinations on the court.”

Those words seem prophetic now when seen through the lens of this Game 2 win. Chan Siu Wing and Li Kee stepped up when Elliott exited from the game, as they combined for 17 points. And when Boone left the game before returning, veteran Fong Shing Yee held down the fort.

They stayed together, and won together. That has been the secret behind Hong Kong’s success: individual talent has been secondary to sacrificing for each other in pursuit of team glory.

“We have a very close knit group,” Lamb shared. “We’re close with our coaches, we’re close with our teammates. you know we win together and we lose together. When we lost [Game 1], everybody, one through the last person felt it. Even people who didn’t play.”

“And when we win, everybody’s happy,” Lamb said proudly. “so we’re like a family.”

“we’ve been together like that this whole year,” Steven Guinchard adds. “So i think that just shows that we are really together as a team. “I enjoy playing with each other, and we enjoy each other’s company and we are close to one another. You can tell in those types of situations that’s when it actually matters.”

Despite the audacious win in Game 2, this series is still up in the air. A hungry and dangerous Singapore squad is raring for revenge, excited to perform in a jam-packed crowd at home in the OCBC. They will recover from the loss, fully ready to take control of this series once again.

Boone might not be 100% for Game 3, as he recovers from his ankle injury. But no matter what, Hong Kong will compete. They’ve showed this all season long. They compete for one another, and will look to win together in hostile territory.