For the second successive season, the Singapore Slingers’ dream of winning their first ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) title went up in smoke as they narrowly went down 80-82 to a persistent Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions team at the OCBC Arena on Sunday.
The Slingers also made it to the ABL Finals last year, but were beaten 2-3 by Westports Malaysia Dragons.
Xavier Alexander of the Singapore Slingers in action during game 4 of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals. Photo: Sport Singapore
While this season also ended in disappointment for Singapore’s only professional basketball team, the Slingers fought hard throughout the thrilling game, which went into double-overtime.
But despite their best efforts, they failed to keep the Long Lions’ three foreign aces in check. Josh Boone, Marcus Elliott and Tyler Lamb combined to score 24 of the Long Lions’ last 26 points.
Standing out both offensively and defensively for the Slingers, Justin Howard, who won the Defensive Player Of the Year award, notched 20 points and 26 rebounds.
But that award was of no consolation to the big man.
Justin Howard of the Singapore Slingers in action during game 4. Photo: Sport Singapore
“It’s nice to win that, but at the end of the day, I’d really rather be holding the championship trophy,” the 35-year-old said.
Slingers’ coach Neo Beng Siang said the team did not “take care of the ball” and suffered too many turnovers, which led to their defeat.
“It’s on us. How we are going to take care of the ball and how we are going to deal with their defensive pressure,” he said.
The Slingers may have suffered some injuries to their key players this season, but Neo refused to attribute the loss to injuries and was instead proud of his charges for coming this far despite all odds.
“We have come all the way to the finals with all the injuries. I’m proud of the boys and everybody, including the staff.”