The Westports KL Dragons may have been trounced by Smart Gilas-Philippines, 95-64, but gained a lot despite the loss in their first game in the 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
The Dragons had a good first half keeping them in the game within shouting distance to the surprise of the Smart Gilas Philippines national team before sputtering in the second half.
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia said that it was a learning experience to the players.
“I’m happy with the way we played,” said Vanguardia. “This is our first real game since our tune-up game against a local professional team here. We have only been together for three weeks but we really played well.”
“This is a good opportunity for us since we are playing with the best club teams in Asia. This is a part of the growing pains because we are a young team,” said Vanguardia.
Vanguardia said that the Westports KL Dragons and the Malaysian national team are emulating the style of most of the national teams in Asia including Smart Gilas where they start the players young and develop them for the next years.
“We are following the formula of most national teams. Keep them intact for the next few years and see them grow,” said Vanguardia.
American import Chris Ayer had a game-high 31 points while Marcus Morrison added 15 points. The locals also did a good job with Yoong Jing Kwaan scoring seven points and Guganeswaran Batumalai adding five markers.
The Filipino fans expected a blowout especially when the Dragons were down, 10-0. But the Malaysians had other plans as they kept themselves in the game. A two-point basket by Shee Fai Loh started a Malaysian run to trail by only five points, 15-20.
The Dragons continued to stay in the game with Yoong Jing Kwaan making his presence felt inside along with Ayer, who had 13 rebounds to lead the team. Yoong made it a 38-39 score with a rebound putback before Morrison making two free throws to end the first half ahead, 40-39.
Ayer continued to score with a jumper for a 42-39 lead to start the third quarter but that was the time Smart Gilas pulled away outscoring the Dragons, 26-9, in that period.
It was garbage time for Smart Gilas in the fourth but the Dragons remained their hustle plays down the stretch knowing that every minute is important to their campaign.
“It’s a young team, we have a lot of new guys but with the way we played, I’m happy with it,” said Ayer.
“I hope this game will boost our confidence as we try to seek a slot in the quarterfinals,” said Vanguardia.
The Dragons will next face Duhok-Iraq on Monday 4 p.m. Manila time.