Singapore Slingers centre Justin Howard (number 55) during the Singapore Slingers Cancer Awareness Game. (Photo by Leong AC/ Sport Singapore)
It was Wednesday evening, and although it was a working day, there was still a sizeable crowd at the OCBC Arena ready to watch the Singapore Slingers tussle with Saigon Heat.
As opposed to their traditional white, the Slingers were decked out in pink in order to raise awareness for cancer in the annual Cancer Awareness game, an initiative by the hosts for a fourth successive year.
While the jerseys worn by the Slingers would be auctioned off with proceeds being donated to the various foundation, so too were takings for the match, with six dollars donated by the Slingers each time someone bought one with a promocode “maxlife”.
Pink or white jerseys, it did not matter as the Slingers saw off Heat 79-65 in the team’s last home game of the regular season and secured a spot in the Asean Basketball League’s (ABL) playoffs.
Slingers' forward Dior Lowhorn tussles for the ball. (Photo by Stanley Cheah/ Sport Singapore)
It had been two years since the Slingers made the playoffs, and to secure the spot in the last regular season home game made it sweeter for Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang.
“Definitely it is good, the feeling is great because this is our new venue and it puts us in the playoffs position. We hope to see all the Slingers’ fans come to see us play in the playoffs, especially for the home games,” Neo added.
While the final score could be interpreted as a comfortable victory for the hosts, it was anything but that, especially in the starting minutes of the game.
Captain Desmond Oh - who gets limited play time - was given a starting role but he and his teammates struggled to contain the likes of Justin Williams and Dustin Scott as the visitors stormed to a 8-2 lead.
Captain of the Singapore Slingers, Desmond Oh. (Photo by VoxSports)
However, Oh managed to rally his teammates as he led by example to hassle for the ball and get nine rebounds, while driving forward whenever possible.
It could be argued that he even started the turnaround, with a two-pointer that sent his team on a 8-2 run of their own to tie the game in the first half.
The Slingers soon assumed control of the match and pulled away slowly, while Heat worked tirelessly to reduce the deficit, albeit with minimal dividends.
While Neo was quietly pleased with Oh’s defensive performance, the man himself played down his contribution and insisted he was only doing as instructed and what was expected of him as a captain.
“As a captain, I should motivate them.. this my job, this is what I should do,” Oh expressed.
Oh even managed seven points from field, but he believed that it could have been more if he had fully recovered from knee injuries. However, he would have rather trained on the court than recuperate at home and miss out on the season.
“I rushed back to play, so my knees are still not in the best condition; they are better now but I am still recovering,” he said.
Another player making a return from injury too was Larry Liew, who injured his pinkie while going for the ball in a match, and had been out for nearly two months since August.
Singapore Slinger Larry Liew is back after suffering an injury to his pinkie nearly two months ago. (Photo by VoxSports)
Calling it “the darkest moments of my basketball career”, Liew recalled how shocked he was then to see his own bone protruding out of his skin.
A key shooter for the team, Liew has since made his comeback three games ago.
While his performance has been fairly topsy-turvy since his return, Liew promised that he would improve in time for his first ever playoffs.
“I feel great, i dreamt of playing in the playoffs since I was young, and now I finally got this chance so I will try my best,” Liew vowed.