This ABL season’s edition of the Straits Cup has very different repercussions for the Singapore Slingers and the Westports Malaysia Dragons as the two teams start their home-and-home series at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Friday night.
The home squad needs the win as they’re trying to stay ahead of the Mono Vampire Basketball Club who are rallying late in the elimination round to try and steal a spot in the playoffs after their flat start. The Dragons are at the number eight spot right now with a 6-10 win-loss tally, ahead of Mono Vampire at 5-13. The Straits Cup used to be just an additional source of pride for both teams but their two games will be very important for Westports Malaysia.
The Slingers, on the other end, are within whispering-distance of the second spot as they are at 10-7, just behind the Formosa Dreamers at 11-6. Getting the second spot is crucial as it would lead to home-court advantage at least until the semifinals and it also keeps the team clear of the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas until the ABL Finals as the defending champions are inching closer towards locking up the top spot.
Singapore is coming off a refreshing 11-day break as their last game as back on February 10 against the Saigon Heat where the Slingers once again displayed their defensive prowess to thwart their usually explosive foes. Singapore led by as much as 25 points and dominated the interior on both ends of the floor to take home the victory.
For Westports Malaysia, their last game showed that they can beat the top teams in the league. Already holding a win against the defending champions, the Dragons went down by as much as 20 points against the Dreamers but they fought back in the end game to make it a much closer affair. A lesson for them is to try not to be left behind early and dig themselves a hole too deep to recover from.
Two ABL veterans will be going at it for this game as Chris Eversley and Xavier Alexander. These two have matched up against each other many times in the past and they’ll have to lead their teams again.
Alexander has the better numbers except for rebounds so Eversley must take it upon himself to play a level higher than his usual.
The battle of the bigs will also be a crucial matchup as John Fields take on one of the best big man defenders in the league in Nnanna Egwu.
The X-factors of the matchup will be imports Winston Shepard and Jerran Young as the two talented players can explode to dominate the offense of their respective teams or come up with blanks and struggle from the field.
Even though the Slingers dominated their first meeting, the Dragons have improved by leaps and bounds since that game and should present a bigger challenge against Singapore this time around. With the Straits Cup on the line and crucial wins up for grabs, expect the best from these two rivals.