The top-seeded Westports Malaysia Dragons earned their first ASEAN Basketball League finals trip in franchise history after eliminating the Saigon Heat with a 102-92 romp in game 2 of the 2014 AirAsia ABL semi-final series.
“I have a huge respect for the Heat’s organization. They are well-coached and their fans are amazing. They had the lead in the first half but our team showed some character today and did not give up. I’m very proud of our team’s efforts,” said Dragons’ head coach Ariel Vanguardia after the victory.
The Dragons secured a 2-0 series victory over the Heat and will face the second seeded Hi-Tech Bangkok City on Saturday November 8 at the MABA Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, for game 1 of the ABL Finals.
Justin Knox and Avery Scharer had a tremendous game for the Dragons. Knox finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Scharer continued to fill up the box score by recording his second triple-double of the season with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 18 assists and 5 steals.
“I’m very confident with my team. We just have to play every game like it’s our last game and play like we have been playing in the last seven games of the season. We have to play together and play smart,” said Knox on keys against Hi-Tech in the finals.
Chris Eversley also contributed 17 points, while Moala Tautuaa and Loh Shee Fai finished with 16 points each for the Dragons who scored 68 points in the paint.
Playing in front of the sold out fans at the CIS Arena, Saigon, the Heat did their damage early and went up 12-7 with 4:36 left after David Arnold converted his three-point play. Arnold, Williams and Avenido combined for 22 points to give the Heat a 24-18 edge after one quarter.
Avenido continued to hurt the Dragons in the second quarter by drilling four three-pointers. The Heat’s pushed their lead to as high as 13 points, 41-28, on an Avenido’s three-pointer with 4 minutes left before halftime. The Heat led 50-42 at the halftime break with Avenido leading the way with 18 points.
Unfortunately for the Heat, they were unable to sustain their energy in the second half. The Dragons started to take advantage by pushing the tempo and burned the Heat on transition. Eversley gave the Dragons their first lead at 63-62 with 2:34 left in the third period after draining an open shot from behind the arc. Scharer continued to impress as he found Tautuaa for the dunk with a slick no-look wrapped around pass which gave the Dragons a 69-63 lead.
In the final quarter, the Dragons attacked the Heat’s interior defense and crashed the offensive boards. They put together a 12-1 run which capped by a three-pointer from Scharer to build an 87-69 cushion with 6:20 left.
Saigon tried to make a late rally after Arnold sparked a 15-5 run which brought the Heat within 7 points, 91-84, with 2:52 left. But, the Heat forgot about Knox on the next play who was able to dunk the ball uncontested to break the Heat’s momentum. Tatuaa’s putback with 2:35 left sealed it for the Dragons.
Avenido led all scorers with 30 points and Williams finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds. Arnold had 19 points and Dijon Thompson added 17 points.
Saigon Heat: Avenido – 30, Williams – 27, Arnold – 19, Thompson – 17.
Westports Malaysia Dragons: Knox – 29, Scharer – 17, Eversley – 17, Loh – 16, Tautuaa – 16, Ban Sin – 5, Tong – 1, Kuek – 1.
Photo by Norman Goh