(Singapore Slingers' Justin Howard (C) in action. Photo by Sport Singapore)
Despite playing in front of their home fans, the Singapore Slingers had their work cut out for them as they saw off a determined Westports Malaysia Dragons side which were coming off back to back wins.
Things got off to shaky start as the Dragons outscored the Slingers in the first half of the “Strait Cup” game - an annual competition within the ABL season between the Southeast Asian neighbours.
However, American imports Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander both showed their mettle and class later in the game, with Howard leading the scoring with an impressive 45 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
(Singapore Slingers' Xavier Alexander reacts during the match. Photo by Sport Singapore)
The Slingers saw their ten point lead in the second half shrink, but they dug deep and endured a tense final quarter to come out winners with a nervy 88-85 scoreline.
Converting 78 per cent from the floor, Howard was unstoppable. His coach Neo Beng Siang said, “He ran the floor hard so we asked him to keep on running.”
“The first thing (for our team) is to look inside for him because Justin was doing a great job inside tonight.”
Captain of the Slingers Desmond Oh was equally impressed with Howard. “He really played well today, especially on the offensive boards… he helped the team with scoring because today we only had 6 or 7 (fit) players.”
Captain of the National Wheelchair Basketball team, Choo Poh Choon and teammate Kamas Bin Mohd were down at the stands once again to cheer on the Singapore Slingers.
Being a supporter of the local wheelchair basketball team, Oh said he would be at the 8th ASEAN Para Games to cheer them on and they just had to “do their best”.