Sam Deguara was certainly the hero for Thailand after he catapulted the Mono Vampire Basketball Club to the ABL Finals with a sensational buzzer-beater to defeat top seed Chong Song Kung Fu Basketball Club on Wednesday.
It was a fitting ending to what had been a hard-fought series between the two ball clubs and the perfect shot that would be etched in ABL history.
“That’s what I do. I work on my body. Take advantage of my size,” Deguara said after the game.
However, it was a shot that nearly wasn’t going to happen for Deguara.
Before the astonishing finish, Mono head coach Douglas Marty wasn’t even sure that his dominant center could actually play in the second half, let alone hit the game-winner. After a strong first half, Deguara was used sparingly during the third quarter.
“We didn’t know if he could find that second wind. He really had to come out,” explained Marty. “He had cramps and blood on his lip. He was sort of in a daze. He had used up all of his energy. And he was struggling to run the court so he had to come out.”
Deguara was nowhere to be found as Chong Son made a furious rally in the third period. From their first quarter deficit, the Chinese team flipped the script in the second half to take the lead while the Mono center was sitting on the bench trying to catch his breath.
Led by Mikh McKinney, Anthony Tucker, and Justin Howard, Chong Son bulldozed their way to take control of the ball game entering the fourth quarter.
But Mono didn’t want to travel back to China in a winner-take-all Game 3. Marty went with his gut and trusted his prized center.
“Fortunately, he was able to put those cramps behind him and finish strong,” the coach shared. “We weren’t sure he could, but at that point, you have to go to him in the end, and he came through.”
With Deguara reinserted in the lineup, Mono went to work. Jason Brickman was aggressive getting into the teeth of the defense while Mike Singletary kept attacking. As for Deguara, he reestablished himself in the post to get a ton of rebounds and second chance opportunities for his team.
“I think we followed the game plan. And we struggled some times. We got back and we did what we do best,” Deguara shared.
“We found a way. Sam got his second wind, held serve a little while, ran the floor well,” Marty said proudly.
And then with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, Deguara baited Howard into getting his fifth and final foul. Eventually, that led to the game-winning play od Deguara.
“I think Howard fouling out was key in the end because we had two seconds to get that inbounds play. Credit to Sam,” assessed Marty on their last play. “Jason was the glue that just kept the motor going. Fantastic pass on the inbounds. And Sam had enough juice left to power up.”
Deguara’s game-winner is certainly one for the record books, but the work isn’t done for the Mono Vampire. They still have a tall task ahead of them when they take on San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the Finals.
“I think the last games we played in Manila and in here, we learned from our mistakes,” Deguara said about matching up against the Philippine squad. “Every game we keep getting better as a team. We keep getting better individually.”