After years of disappointment, the Saigon Heat have finally won a playoff game.
The Vietnamese squad’s first franchise victory in the postseason could have come in a better time as they forced a rubber match against the BTN CLS Knights Indonesia with a rousing 86-81 Game 2 quarterfinals win, Wednesday at the CIS Arena.
Trevon Hughes had a masterful performance of 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals. But in the endgame, it was the fearless play of Kyle Barone that paved the way for the Heat win.
The Knights were poised to sweep the playoff series after Sandy Kurniawan’s 3-pointer gave the road team a five-point lead, 81-76. However, Barone answered with five straight points – a pair of free throws and a tough turnaround triple – to tie the game at 81 apiece with a minute and a half remaining in the contest.
The 6-foot-8 big man was not done yet, sinking another clutch basket and giving the Heat the lead, 83-81, with 43 seconds left on the clock. The Knights had no answer for Barone and company as they went scoreless in the last two minutes. They failed to tie the game after Maxie Esho missed two foul shots and Darryl Watkins’s jumper failed to hit the mark.
Hughes’ two shots at the charity stripe made it a four-point advantage and after a pair of misses by the Knights from beyond the arc, Corey Cilia iced the game with another free throw with four seconds left.
Barone finished with 23 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to go along with nine rebounds and three blocks. Cilia and De Angelo Hamilton had 13 points apiece and a combined 13 rebounds.
For the Knights, all five starters finished in double-figures. Esho led the way with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Watkins also had a double-double, notching 20 points and 13 boards. Locals Wong Wei Long and Brandon Jawato conspired for 23 points. Unfortunately for the Knights, Herring had a relatively quiet outing of 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting, four rebounds, and four assists.
The Heat made their first playoff appearance in 2014, their third season in the league. They’ve been in the postseason since then but have yet to earn a win until Wednesday night.
The pivotal Game 3 between the Heat and the Knights will be on Sunday, April 7, as the series shifts back to Surabaya, Indonesia. The victor will face the Mono Vampire Basketball Club in the semifinals.