Long Lions Roar: Hong Kong Eastern Fights Back in Game 4 to Win First ABL Title

As the final buzzer inside the OCBC Arena sounded on Sunday, April 23, tears streamed out Josh Boone’s, Marcus Elliott’s, and Tyler Lamb’s eyes.
 
When they have all left it on the floor to overcome the biggest challenge of their maiden 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season, there is nothing left to do but to reflect on what has been a phenomenal journey for the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
 
And it were the Long Lions’ three ace players who delivered in the most important stretch of their ABL season as the squad weathered the Singapore Slingers challenge anew to clinch the ABL championship, winning a thrilling double-overtime Game 4, 82-80 and the series, 3-1.
 
“Overcoming adversity, man. When something’s for you, you are going to have all kinds of adversity thrown at you. You just got to stay level-headed, but that doesn’t you will back down, stop being tough, stop being aggressive. You have to keep fighting and that’s what we did,” Elliott said.
 
Boone, Elliott, and Lamb combined to score 24 of the last 26 points for Hong Kong in the fourth quarter and the two overtime periods.
 
Boone opened scoring in the second extension in the paint. Justin Howard and Delvin Goh answered on the other end for the Slingers, but Elliott replied with a three-point play conversion after making a jumper while drawing a foul from Howard.
 
Lamb pushed the cushion up to 82-78 with a fastbreak lay-up assisted by Elliott with only 2:28 left in the game.
 
Leon Kwek hit a jumper to cut the deficit down to two, before the game boiled down to defense. Hong Kong missed three attempts under the final two minutes, with Lamb’s missed jumper with 23.3 seconds to go leaving the door open for Singapore to save their season.
 
But Xavier Alexander and Leon Kwek failed to hit their shots before time expired, as the Long Lions escaped with the championship trophy in their inaugural season.
 
“I think the only thing that kept us going was how close we are as a group. Being able to battle through adversity, staying together, and keeping our energy up through the whole game,” Lamb shared.
 
Elliott was named Finals MVP after finishing with 26 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, and a block. Lamb had 21 points while Boone added 13 points, 16 boards, and 2 blocks. Fong Shing Yee chipped in a near double-double of 9 points and 11 boards.
 
The Long Lions swept the final three games of the finals series, but nothing came easy for them even up to the last minute.
 
“The fact we had to work so hard to get it makes it even sweeter for us. It’s one thing to come out, get a blowout, and it’s another thing to overcome every obstacle, play 50 minutes on the road, win two straight games and win the championship,” Boone said.
 
“That’s one of the best feats I have ever seen in the professional career.”
 
Elliott picked up two quick fouls in the third quarter after getting entangled with Josh Urbiztondo. Lamb had already sat out most of the first half after committing three personal fouls.
 
“You are going to deal with tough times in games no matter how good you are,” Lamb said.
 
The Slingers came out firing, knocking down four triples in the first quarter before closing the third quarter on a 13-2 run to take a 59-55 lead into the final frame.
 
“We know Singapore is a tough team, they never back down, they never go away until the last second. They battle until the end,” Lamb said.
 
However, Elliott and Lamb, who were awarded World Import and Heritage Import MVPs respectively prior to tip-off, took over the game in the fourth period.
 
Elliott hit back-to-back triples while Lamb scored on a jumper off a crossover to give the lead back to Hong Kong. A third three by Elliott in the period followed by a jumper from Fong Shing Yee made it 68-65.
 
“We just stuck together, through the tough times and the good times, and we were able to pull it out, win two big games in the road. This feels amazing,” Lamb added.
 
Urbiztondo knocked down a three of his own to send the game to overtime. but the Long Lions Big 3 proved to be too much in the end.
 
Alexander’s 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals led Singapore, which finished with the runner-up trophy for the second straight year. 
 
Howard tallied 20 points and 26 rebounds while Urbiztondo finished with 16 points including 4-of-10 from three-point distance.
 
“These things, you really have to cherish it. I’ve been doing this for 11 years now. It’s only my second time being a league champion,” Boone said.