Heating Up at the Right Time: Henriquez Delivers Versus Hong Kong

In the final seconds prior to tip-off between the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions and Saigon Heat last Wednesday, March 15, someone was noticeably missing from the Long Lions’ lay-up lines.

World import center Josh Boone, who has been an important inside presence for Hong Kong since the his arrival, did not suit up as he suffered from back spasms during practice.

That left Heat center Jordan Henriquez as the biggest player for that duel, and the World import took advantage right from the opening tip.

The way both teams executed their first sets gave people a glimpse of how the game would progress; Henriquez won the jump ball, and the Heat went to him around the rim immediately for an easy basket. The Long Lions, meanwhile, knocked down a triple on the other end the possession after.

“Of course one of our game plans was to put the ball inside to Jordan,” Heat head coach Tony Garbelotto said.

The trend continued all night. The Heat went to their aggressive bully-ball tactic inside the shaded area against the smaller Long Lions while the sharpshooting squad tried to win it from the outside.

Behind nine first-half threes, the Long Lions took the upperhand, 51-47, though the Heat kept pounding the ball inside for high percentage shots. In the end, it paid off.

“That was the game plan anyway, to work inside and out. It has helped us out a bunch this year. Whether Josh was there or not, we were just going to come there with the same mentality which is win on the road,” Henriquez shared.

Henriquez scored a put-back slam inside the final two minutes, handing Saigon a 90-89 edge.

Later in the waning moments and after Moses Morgan forced Tyler Lamb to a tough shot, Henriquez corralled the rebound and was fouled. He sank one freebie, which gave the Heat a 94-92.

“We knew we were playing against the top two guys in this league, Tyler Lamb and Marcus Elliott. We know how good they are. We scouted them, we learned from our mistakes, and we knew we had to deal with them. Our guards did a heck of job guarding them one-on-one because that’s what it came down to,” Henriquez said.

The Heat got another stop before the final buzzer sounded and emerged on top, 96-92, shooting 55% from the floor and 80% from inside the paint where they held a commanding 48-20 advantage against the Long Lions.

Henriquez was the high man for the Heat, tallying 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

“I think he can do good things even if it was against Josh. But of course, yeah, he was able to dominate tonight,” Garbelotto added.

“We came out and we just played hard. We knew the position we were in. Each game, we got to try and get a win. We are not happy with fourth place, we are trying to get third,” Henriquez furthered.

When the Heat needed Henriquez to be at his best, the big man delivered. Nothing can be more reassuring than that given Henriquez was initially brought in as a temporary replacement to Christien Charles.

It is clear that Henriquez is there to patrol the middle for the Heat as they head to the deep waters of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season.

“When I got in a month ago, coach helped us be together. Our chemistry is so much better than what it was a month ago,” Henriquez said.

“We prepared this week for Hong Kong, and now we just need to focus on Singapore.”