The Westports Malaysia Dragons and the Hi-Tech Bangkok City are set for a classic best-of-three series to win the 2014 AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League Championship which will begin on Saturday November 8 at the MABA Stadium, Kuala Lumpur.
Both teams are playing some of their best basketball of the season, and with plenty of star power and juicy storylines, the appeal is undeniable. The fans are in for a treat as this series should be an instant classic and a true heavyweight bout.
The Dragons and Hi-Tech split their four regular season meetings with 2 games went into extra period and the average margin of victory sits at 5 points.
“Hi-Tech are a very tough team and very hard to matchup. All of our games with them have been close with 2 overtime games. Throw away records and stats for now, it will come down to who wants it more,” Dragons’ head coach Ariel Vanguardia said.
Malaysia booked their first ABL Finals appearance after eliminating the Saigon Heat, 2-0, in the semi-final round. Vanguardia will dedicate this series to their fans. “This is what our Dragon Legion has been waiting for 5 seasons. We are dedicating this to them because they never left us through the years.”
Coming into the series, the Dragons are carrying a seven-game winning streak. Avery Scharer had a sensational semi-final series as he posted a triple-double in game two with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 18 assists.
“As for me, my preparation is always the same mentally. I’m planning to play every game like it’s my last. I always feel like my passion and love for the game is what drives me to be who I am. I pride myself on proving myself and doubters wrong,” Scharer said on his approach for the finals.
During the regular season, Scharer played three times against Hi-Tech and averaged 23.3 points, 8 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. “The keys will be playing as a team and limit their second chance points. We have to rebound and play Dragons basketball,” Scharer said.
Justin Knox and Moala Tautuaa will have a big task on hand as they will matchup with Hi-Tech’s twin towers Chris Charles and Steven Thomas. Meanwhile, Chris Eversley will have his handful on matching-up with sharpshooter Patrick Cabahug.
Hi-Tech ensured their trip to the Finals after sweeping the JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, 2-0, in the semi-final round. In game 2 against the Slingers, Cabahug put his team on his back and scored 26 points to help his Hi-Tech secure a 76-73 victory.
This will be Hi-Tech’s second ABL Finals appearance after they won the ABL Championship in the 2010/2011 season. Hi-Tech’s big man Steven Thomas will play in his fourth consecutive ABL Finals as he chases his second ABL title.
“It’s an honor and blessing to head back to the Finals. I’ve been very fortunate to have been surrounded by good players, coaches and management. It’s a team game. I told my teammates to just play their game and stay together. Leave everything out there on the court and have no regrets,” Thomas said.
Joining Thomas once again is his teammate Jerick Canada. The duo will be playing in their third straight Finals together.
Heading to game 1, Wutipong Dasom is excited to play in his first Finals game. “I’m very excited because it’s my first time. Our mindset will be taking it play-by-play. Try to take them out of their game and make them as uncomfortable as possible. Play very solid defense for the whole game.”
Hi-Tech Bangkok City will also expect a monster effort from Charles and their deep bench. Charles, who was recently named the 2014 AirAsia ABL Import Most Valuable Player, is focused on the task at hand. “My mindset coming into this season was not to be the MVP again but to lead my team to a championship, doing whatever I could to put us in a position to excel. I will do my best to accomplish that.”