Playing without their only legitimate Center in overtime and on the road, the Saigon Heat rolled up their sleeves, went to work and delivered one of the biggest statements this season in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Bucking the absence of Maxie Esho in the fourth quarter, the Heat showcased an incredible shooting display as they prevailed over the league leading Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team via a pulse-pounding 121-115 decision in the Southorn Stadium, Hong Kong.
The Heat had to survive a gritty comeback by the defending champions to pull out the win in overtime. The Vietnam-based squad led 103-96 with 2:34 remaining, despite the disqualifying foul by Esho. But with no big man in the middle, Hong Kong Heritage Import Christian Standhardinger went to town, as he scored four straight points to trim the deficit down to three. Hometown Hero Lee Ki would tie the game via a cold-blooded triple with 1:44 remaining.
Lee would give Hong Kong the lead for the first time in the game, as he sank another triple with 40 seconds remaining. However Heritage Import Mike Williams responded for Saigon by knocking down a triple of his own. Hong Kong would have two cracks at the basket, but they were unable to score, sending the game into overtime at 106-all.
Hong Kong would try to get it into Standhardinger at every opportunity in the extra period, while Saigon countered by pushing the pace and firing away from distance. Elliott’s free throw with three minutes remaining gave Hong Kong a 113-111 advantage with 3:00 remaining. However it was the Heat that would have the stronger finishing kick, as a twisting layup by Akeem Scott tied the game with 1:26 left.
That would setup Williams to deliver his heroics. He knocked down a clutch triple to restore the lead back to Saigon, 116-113. And his encore was equally impressive: a crossover and step back fadeaway with 21 seconds remaining, giving his squad a five point lead, 118-113.
Standhardinger would score on the opposite end, but only five seconds remained in the game. Saigon was able to inbound the ball and keep it away from Hong Kong, and a triple at the buzzer from Williams was the knockout blow, as Saigon celebrated on Hong Kong’s home floor, as they dealt the first loss of the season to the champs.
There were several impressive performances from the Heat, but none more so than Williams, their Filipino-American budding star. The former Cal State Fullerton Titan lit up the Southorn Stadium with 39 points, highlighted by a scintillating 8/15 from the three point area. He also chipped in 7 rebounds and 9 assists.
The duo of Scott and Morgan were also invaluable for Saigon, as they scored 29 and 27 points respectively. Morgan battled Standhardinger all game long at the power forward position, yet was able to come away with 11 rebounds, while also making 7/10 triples in a splendid shooting display. Scott flirted with a triple double, as he notched 7 rebounds and 9 assists.
Hong Kong was led by Standhardinger’s 37 points. He also grabbed 19 rebounds, which was a season-high for the Filipino-German. The only blemish was a woeful display from the free throw line, as he shot 5/17 for 29%. Reigning World MVP Marcus Elliott had his best game of the season, finishing with a triple double of 34 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Lee Ki’s clutch shooting allowed him to finish with 13 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
“We gotta be prepared to come out from the beginning,” Elliott said of the Heat who made their first nine shots of the game in the first period. “We got some adjustments to make on defense. Vietnam shot the ball at an incredible percentage tonight. everybody on their team lit it up.”
The Heat shattered several scoring records in the win. They made the most triples in a game with 18, and also set a new single game scoring record with 121 points. They climb to 3-2 in solo third place. Hong Kong drops to 7-1 in the standings.