The Malaysian crowd celebrated wildly as Choo Wei Hong firmly dropped the ball into the basket with the sound of the regulation buzzer wailing out loud almost simultaneously.
It had been a physical game between the Malaysia National Team and the ACBA Dragons from Australia and everyone at MABA Stadium was waiting for the referees to give their verdict on whether Choo Wei Hong was able to beat the buzzer or not. The officials were quick to waive off the basket and as the fans groaned in disappointment, the two teams returned to their benches to regroup and prepare for the overtime session. At the end of regulation the score was locked at 65-65.
In the end, the Malaysia National Team and their supporters were able to have a legitimate celebration by edging out the ACBA Dragons 76-73 in the overtime session.
The two teams came in undefeated in the tournament and made it clear that they weren’t ready to give the opposing side an advantage in any aspect. They changed leads 13 times and were tied 14 times throughout the entire game with no one gaining more than a 6 point lead. With the air-conditioning at MABA Stadium under repair for the day, the atmosphere of the game was heated both literally and figuratively. The ACBA Dragons were more physically imposing than the first two opponents that the Malaysia National Team had faced.
“We played at a different pace against a more physical Australian team. That’s why it was so hard to get baskets inside,” Wong Yi Hou said after the game. “They’re big and there isn’t much space inside. We made quite a number of mistakes. Even when I drive in, it was tough to score points.”
It was a rough offensive night for Malaysia, who scored a tournament-low 76 points on a tournament-low 31% field goal percentage. Despite the offensive struggles, Yi Hou was able to rack up 23 points including a crucial three-pointer in overtime. With Kuek Tian Yuan in foul trouble and Ting Chun Hong not getting the open looks he had been getting, Yi Hou had to step up. He was a steady scoring option for Malaysia throughout the game, drawing fouls in crucial moments to make sure that the ACBA Dragons weren’t able to go on a run.
The ACBA Dragons had plenty of good chances with the lead to control the game, but Malaysia always had a counter. With less than two minutes to go in overtime, the Dragons were able force Malaysia into a turnover and took a comanding 73-72 lead on a layup by David Hayman. Unfortunately for the visiting team, they were not able to defend Chee Li Wei on the other end who scored the go-ahead basket that gave Malaysia the lead for good.
Ting Chun Hong didn’t have as much of an explosive shooting night as the prior game, but his contribution of 9 points was a large part of Malaysia’s success. Ting’s hanging three-point jumpshot at the end of the half not only gave Malaysia a 38-35 lead, but gave them momentum heading into the second half.
The Malaysia National Team finishes the first round of the MABA International Basketball Invitation 2017 at first place with a 3-0 record. They will be playing against the ACBA Dragons again tomorrow (June 16) at 8:00 PM (local time) in the Championship Game.
Cover Photo By Onvisa Thewphaingarm