Confetti fell from the sky, filling the rafters. On the basketball floor of the MABA stadium, fans mobbed center court, jumping and dancing alongside players.
Jubilation filled the MABA Stadium, as the Westports Malaysia Dragons made history, defeating the Singapore Slingers, 77-65, grabbing their first ever ASEAN Basketball League crown.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dragons Head Coach Ariel Vanguardia said of the achievement of his team this season. “They’re very young, but they fought hard. They’re the hardest working team I’ve ever coached.”
Both teams came out slow to start the first quarter, perhaps trying to get rid of some nerves in this deciding Game 5. However buoyed by the hot start of Jason Brickman and Reggie Johnson, the Dragons were the first out of the gate, holding a 16-9 lead after the first quarter. The Dragons set the tone early on, with their play signifying that this would be a slugfest, and both teams would bleed to earn their points. Xavier Alexander was also saddled with two personal fouls early on.
In the second quarter, Matthew Wright joined the scoring party for the Dragons, as he helped break open a tightly fought game. Behind the Dragons’ Slash Brothers, Westports Malaysia opened up 12 point lead at the half, leading 37-25. The Slingers only shot 25% from the field, with only Justin Howard doing damage with 15 points. The rest of the Slingers could only combine for 10 points.
Singapore tried to make a run in the 3rd quarter, as import Kris Rosales broke through and scored 12 points in the 3rd quarter. However the Dragons just had too much firepower for their neighbors. The trio of Brickman, Wright and Johnson held the fort for the Dragons, contributing to a 52-41 lead entering the final quarter of the season.
Willed on by a boisterous home crowd, the Dragons continued the onslaught in the 4th quarter. There would be no last minute rallies or buzzer beaters by the Slingers. Their defense held up all the way until the end. Brickman was masterful orchestrating his team the entire game, and put the final touches on this game by scoring on a pretty floater and dishing to Calvin Godfrey for a monster dunk that got the MABA Stadium shaking in delight.
Despite the valiant effort by the Slingers’ Rosales and Howard, it wasn’t enough as they had to watch the Dragons celebrate when the buzzer sounded.
After the game, Jason Brickman was also named the 2015-2016 ABL Finals MVP. Brickman capped off a splendid series with his Game 5 totals of 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. For the entire series, he normed 13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He was a floor general in every sense of the word.
Reggie Johnson followed with 21 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Matthew Wright’s 16 points.
For the Slingers, Justin Howard let the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Rosales chipped in 22 points in the losing cause. They missed the production of Xavier Alexander, who fouled out of the game and only contributed five points and six rebounds. Compounding the dilemma was the offnight of noted scorers Wu Qingde and reigning MVP Wong Wei Long, who combined to only score six points on 1/21 shooting.
Despite the painful loss, the Slingers can rest in the knowledge that they had a fantastic season, making it to the Finals and stretching the eventual champions to sudden death. But this season, the Dragons showed that they learned from the painful loss in last year’s Finals. They were able to close it out against a tough foe, and did just enough to earn their first championship in the ABL.
Congratulations to the Westports Malaysia Dragons, the 2015-2016 ASEAN Basketball League Champions!