2019 was welcomed with fireworks in the ABL as the Westports Malaysia Dragons and Saigon Heat fought tooth and nail with the result coming down to one last play with one second remaining in the clock.
With the score tied at 82-all after a long three-point shot from Murphy Burnatowski, the Dragons had one opportunity to seal the deal in regulation. Nnanna Egwu threw a perfect pass over the outstretched arms of Kyle Barone which landed on the able hands of Winston Shepard. With only Trevon Hughes on him, Shepard skied and completed the alley-oop play to give the Dragons an 84-82 victory, Wednesday night at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It was an impressive comeback from the home squad who were down by 11 points, 70-59 heading into the final quarter. The Dragons started the fourth with an 8-0 run that rattled the visiting Heat. Jonathan Wong gave Westports Malaysia the lead with four minutes remaining in the game with an and-one play, 73-72.
Another local then stepped up for the Dragons as Loh Shee Fai added another basket to bump their lead up to three points.
In the final two minutes, locals from both squads stepped up to nail crucial baskets with Wong nailing a triple and Tran Dang Khoa taking right back on the next possession for 78-77 count in favor of the Dragons.
Chris Dierker then took the lead far Saigon with a basket but Egwu replied on the other side, quickly followed by two free throws from Shepard for a three-point Westports Malaysia lead, 82-79.
Needing a three-point shot to tie the count, Saigon went to their deadliest shooter in Burnatowski but he hit the back iron on his first attempt. Luckily, Trevon Hughes secured the offensive rebound and dished it back out to Burnatowski who tied the ball game. However, the left one second remaining on the clock and it proved to be all the Dragons needed to secure their second victory of the season.
Shepard overcame a poor shooting night with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists. He only made six out of 20 attempts from the field but he made the one that mattered the most. Eversley led the Dragons in scoring with 25 points.
The big difference for Westports Malaysia was the performance of their locals as they chipped in a combined 28 points. A vast improvement from their 17-point effort in their first meeting.
Barone had another big double-double for Saigon with 25 points and 17 rebounds while his fellow imports Hughes and Burnatowski added 20 points each. It was Hughes first game back after suffering a leg injury and the Heat’s offense flowed better because of his presence as he also added six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals to his tally.
Saigon fell to the fifth spot with a 6-4 win-loss tally.