Story by Ian Chew. Photos by Vanessa Lim/Red Sports
Top scorer Al Vergara (Slingers #19) scored 33 points in total. He had 10 field goals and made all 8 free throws. (Photo 1 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Singapore Indoor Stadium, Tuesday, February 1, 2011 — Expect a fiery decider back in Thailand.
That seemed to be the message sent by the visiting Thailand Slammers team after their bruising 76-90 loss to the Singapore Slingers in the second game of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) semi-final playoffs. The Slingers win evened the series up at 1-1.
Slammers forward Piroon Piyapong, one of the better performers for his team, sent Slinger forward Leo Avenido sprawling with a physical foul in the last minute of the game with the contest virtually over. That petulant act almost threatened a free-for-all among both sets of players but failed to alter the result of the game.
Avenido then punctuated his team’s series leveller with an emphatic dunk at the end of the game for a comprehensive victory.
Said Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang later: “We hope to use this victory as a springboard to win the series in Thailand and qualify for the finals.”
Widely expected to be a close contest, the Slingers wrapped up the game midway through the third quarter with an 18-2 run. Slingers point guard Al Vergara sparked off his team with an acrobatic lay up and back to back 3-pointers to establish a 58-37 lead. He eventually top scored for his team with 31 points.
Al was not the lone star performer though. Slingers forward Avenido also finished the game with 31 points and centre Kyle Jeffers underlined his importance to the team by scoring 13 points and grabbing 20 rebounds, as well as shutting down Slammers big man Jason Dixon. American Marcus Skinner then chipped in with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
A crucial turning point in the game came when Slammers point guard Abby Santos, who had tormented the Slingers defence in the first game, picked up two quick fouls in the third quarter to sit out the rest of the game. He had a forgettable outing, finishing with just three points.
The Slammers also showed a distinct lack of concentration with a miserable 6 of 14 shooting at the free throw line to snuff any hopes of a comeback.
Yet the Thailand Slammers, who incidentally finished with the best record in the league, did show their quality with a late run during the game. Piyapong was the outstanding performer, with three long range pull-up jumpers to make the game slightly uncomfortable for the Slingers.
In the end though, the desire of the home team shone through as they fended off all their opponent’s challenges in front of a 2000-strong home crowd. But they will have their work cut out for them as they travel to Thailand next week for the semi-final decider.
Al Vergara (Slingers #19) diving to the floor to get possession of the ball. (Photo 2 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Marcus Skinner (Slingers #24) driving past Abby Santos (Slammers #37). (Photo 3 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
Marcus Skinner (Slingers #24) knocks the rebound from Jason Dixon (Slammers #42). (Photo 4 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
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