The Singapore Slingers kickstarted their ABL Season with an impressive one-sided win over the Brunei Barracudas. The high man for the Slingers was Michael LeBlanc a.k.a M.L.B with 20 points. Back-up point guard Wong Wei Long also had his break-out game, scoring 12 points from 4 treys. “Flyboy” Hong Wei Jian was rather quiet for the 1st half, but exploded with not 1 but 2 crowd-dazzling spectacular dunks in the 4th quarter. Another feat accomplished in the game was Kyle Jeffers game-high 20 rebounds. This is the most rebounds ever collected by a Slinger.
The crowd was significantly smaller compared to the previous games. It was disappointing seeing such a dismal crowd appearing for an inaugural ABL game in Singapore, a milestone in Singapore’s basketball history. It is a consolation at the least seeing that this crowd was there to root for the Slingers.
The game began with a quiet tip-off. The crowd was reserved in giving their cheers for the team. Probably, this translated to the quiet local players’ performances. The local players appeared weary and reserved in their playing. They adopted a pass-first mentality and hesitated on taking shots.
At the west stand, there was little cheering except for a small pocket of Singaporeans (and a few isolated ones) shouting “Defense!” This worked well for a while, as the Brunei team was seen to commit a number of turnovers that were converted into easy points by the Slingers.
As the cheering died down a little, the Slingers, especially the local players, lost a bit of their form and started to take poor shots and committed multiple errors. The Barracudas took the opportunity to climb back into the game and even took a mere one point lead somewhere towards the end of the quarter.
But thanks to Wong Wei Long! He drained a potential four-point play from the right corner to stop the bleeding. It was an incredible play that got the crowd excited for a little while. Sadly, he couldn’t convert the four point play, missing the free throw.
The half ended at 38-37, with the Slingers taking a mere one point lead.
My pack of crazy die-hard Slingers fans decided to shift nearer so as to make our cheers heard. We sat somewhere behind the Barracudas bench. Incidently, it was directly in front of a row of Barracudas fans. From that view, we also noticed a group of Barracudas fans sitting courtside at the opposite side of the court. They were holding a placard reading “Go Brunei Barracudas!” I wonder if any other Slingers fan, apart from the guy at the Turbanizer corporate box, would do that for the Slingers.
As the third quarter began, we sensed that our crazy antics of shouting “Defense!” had the top of our voices were affecting the Barracudas performance. They began committing turnovers from the Slingers’ tight defense, allowing the Slingers to convert good baskets on the other end.
The local players then began to step up. Wei Long continued his hot shooting, converting another three-pointer, his 3rd of the night. Desmond “The Defender” Oh hit his 1st ever field goal from an open trey. Pathman also hit a couple of catch-and-shoot mid-range jumpers. The Slingers fans were shouting “DAVID WEST!!!”, seeing the resemblance in Pathman’s playing style to that player. Pathman was making 17-foot jumpshots from passes just like how David West makes them in games.
The most memorable shot from Pathman was a fade-away shot past the towering 6-11 Lonnie Jones. That shot was an “IN-YOUR-FACE”!
The Slingers were now holding a big lead entering the fourth period. The Brunei supporters behind us were trying to outcheer us, but to no avail. The crowd was slowly getting use to game. They were slightly more vocal and ready to cheer the team each time they scored.
The 1st Big play of the game by the Slingers came from “Flyboy” Hong Wei Jian who was fouled on a dunk attempt that went in (See photo below). They forced the Barracudas Coach to call timeout. The fans broke out into cheers.
That wasn’t the end of it for the fans.
The “Flyboy” had more for the fans. He reserved the best for the last. He demonstated his flight abilities once more with a thunderous tomahawk dunks off a fastbreak. This spectacular play ignited the home crowd. Weijian extended his arms ala Jason “The Jet” Terry, signifying that Flyboy has just taken off a flight.
Flyboy taking flight once more:
That was the Play of the Game for me. Surely it was also the long-awaited dunk that Weijian’s fans were hoping to see since the close of last season.
The Slingers rounded off the game with 5 local players on court as the clock winded down. Finally, the Slingers won deservingly 87-69. A blow-out game!
It was surprising to see Wong Wei Long transforming into a “Long” (Dragon) in this game. Quoted from Wei Jian, Wei Long could make these shots all the while during practice, but he just lacked the confidence to convert them in game-time. But this is now a thing in past. Wei Long appeared confident and perhaps ready to takeoff from this game onwards as a reliable long-range bomber of the Slingers.
It was also interesting to see Wei Jian delivering his signature gravity-defying moves that were indeed crowd-pleasers. Hint: Slingerfans now want to see more. Perhaps a Back-slam next?
Pathman, Al Vergara, K.J and M.L.Bwere also consistent as usual, delivering their usual contributions to the team.
Desmond was the other person notable for his performance. On top of his usual gritty air-tight defensive presence, he was confident offensively, scoring 5 points. At the end of the game, I went to congrate him. He said to me, “Finally, I did it!” That was a sign of an improving player. I do hope to see ‘Tight D’ Desmond improving even more in the next few games.
I really hope too that more Singaporeans would come to the games to show support to our local boys. Indeed, they have worked very hard and definitely earned our respect from the performances they have delivered.
-Photos by Francis Espeleta-