After a one year absence, the Singapore Slingers have made its triumphant return to the biggest stage of the ASEAN Basketball League.
Banking on a thrilling fourth quarter comeback, the Slingers upended Hong Kong Eastern on its homecourt, winning 80-73 in the Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
It was sweet revenge for the Slingers, as they got their revenge on Hong Kong after losing in heartbreaking fashion in the 2017 ABL Finals. The team banked on clutch performances from Xavier Alexander and John Fields, World Imports who have been there for the Slingers since the beginning of the season.
“It feels good,” Alexander shared after the win. “That was such a good game. I still can’t believe it.”
The Slingers began the fourth quarter down by 8 points after a disastrous third quarter where they were outscored 24-11 by the home squad. A triple by Marcus Elliott with 5 seconds left in the period gave Hong Kong an eight point advantage, 62-54.
The Slingers would have to scratch and claw their way back into the game in order to avoid the specter of having to play a do-or-die Game 3 match. Slowly they chipped away at the lead that reached as high as 9 points, behind timely hits from Jerran Young and dunks from Fields. A triple from Larry Liew capped and a free throw from Alexander capped off an 9-2 run that tied the game at 71-all with 3:08 left in the game.
Both teams traded missed baskets and turnovers, as the tension heightened in the Southorn Stadium as time winded down. Eventually, Alexander broke the tie, as he canned two free throws to open up a 73-71 lead.
Hong Kong was unable to counter, as Elliott and O’Darien Bassett missed shots while Michael Holyfield was whistled for a turnover with 55 seconds left in the game. The Slingers upped its lead, as Young had a split from the charity stripe to make it a three-point game.
Hong Kong would finally break its silence, as Bassett drove the lane around Fields, cutting their deficit with 35 seconds remaining. However Fields would hit the biggest shot of the game- a midrange jumper after receiving a pass from Alexander to restore the three-point lead.
Facing a desperate situation, Hong Kong was unable to respond as Elliott missed a floater in the paint. Two free throws from Fields capped off by a jam, and the Singapore Slingers completed the comeback and celebrated on their opponents’ homecourt.
“You know how it is in Eastern,” Alexander said. “They have a great crowd as you can hear. We were just looking to stay close and pulling it out in the end.”
“We did a pretty good job in the first half but we came out in the second half, in the third quarter, we sort of fell apart,” Slingers Coach Neo Ben Siang of his team’s performance. “Basically most of them going individual, and not sticking to what we were supposed to do. But overall they hung together as a team and kept playing no matter what. I think basically we are tough enough to get ourselves there. “
Fields was masterful in Game 2, as he anchored the Slingers with another double-double performance of 26 points and 10 rebounds. His clutch baskets, particularly in the fourth quarter were the difference maker in the tight ballgame.
Xavier Alexander was also spectacular as he notched a triple-double with 22 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Alexander’s seventh triple is now the most in ABL history, eclipsing the six that Hong Kong’s Marcus Elliott currently has.
Michael Holyfield led the way for Hong Kong with 18 points, 21 rebounds and 5 blocks. Marcus Elliott chipped in with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in the losing effort. Bassett struggled once again versus the defense of the Slingers, as he scored 18 points but on 6/23 field goals.
The Slingers will now await their Finals opponent- the winner of the BTN CLS Knights vs Mono Vampire series.
“Back in the finals,” Alexander said triumphantly. “This is my third year out of four. I’ve lost 2 so I’m looking forward to going back to the Finals and getting one.”