In their first return to the OCBC Arena since winning the ASEAN Basketball League, the Westports Malaysia Dragons took a defeat at the hands of the Seoul Samsung Thunders, 99-70. The winning side was led by Michael Craig with 25 points and 9 rebounds.
The defending ABL Champions had some familiar faces on their roster for the tournament – Kuek Tien Yuan (8 points, 5 rebounds) and Wong Yi Hou (4 points, 4 rebounds), but this was a relatively new group of Dragons that the crowd got to see.
The Seoul Samsung Thunder of the Korean Basketball League might have been slightly tired from their duel with Mighty Sports (Philippines) last night as they struggled to shake off the Malaysia squad. The Thunders would lead by only 13-11 at the 5 minute mark of the first quarter. Without last season’s usual firepower of Matthew Wright, Reggie Johnson, Calvin Godfrey, and Jason Brickman, the Dragons had to turn to freshly signed import, Joel Wright. Fresh from a stint in the Philippine Basketball Association, Wright exploded with 13 points in the first quarter alone. The Thunders would respond with the athletic play of Craig, who matched Wright with 13 points in the quarter along with a couple of highlight reel dunks. It would be a 9 point gap for the Dragons to overcome the rest of the way, trailing 24-33 after one quarter.
The Korean side continued to break away from the Dragons in the second quarter. Thunders’ Coach Lee Sangmin felt comfortable enough to rest his key starters throughout the game. They would have 5 players score in double digits while 11 of the 12 players fielded got on the scoreboard. Lee Si Jun came off the bench and notched an impressive 17 points, 5 three point shots and 11 rebounds.
Joel Wright scored a game-high 37 points for the Dragons in his debut. Dragons’ Coach Goh Cheng Huat, however, decided to sit him on the bench for the majority of the final interval to let his Malaysian players soak in the Merlion Cup experience.
Losing this game is a rough start for the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the Merlion Cup. However, they will still have a shot at making the semifinals depending on the result of their match up against Mighty Sports tomorrow (23rd September) at 6:30 PM.