The Singapore Slingers notched up their 2nd win in the Singapore Challenge Series by beating visiting PBA team MERALCO Bolts 77-64. This victory came on the back of a 97-72 win over Rain or Shine but the score could had gone a different direction had Centres Marlou Aquino and Beau Belga kept their cool.
Neo Beng Siang kept faith with the starting line-up that was employed in the previous game and Marcus Skinner duly gave the game its first points – the same way he given the previous games its first point. Whilst both teams were contented with making wild throws at the basket, 39-year old Centre Marlou Aquino earned 3 personal fouls early in the 1st Quarter, and this led the Manila team to change strategy, with Beau Belga taking over. The 1st Quarter ended 13-10 in favour of the Slingers and fans were left wondering on the quality of finishing by the 2 teams.
The 2nd Quarter started with no real urgency shown by both teams and missed baskets were the highlights of the day as both teams played defensively, and not willing to commit too much. Whilst Aquinon garnered his 4th personal foul in the 2nd Quarter, his replacement Belga got 4 for himself, and this left the Bolts with no big man for the remaining of the Quarter. The Slingers capitalize on it and widened the gap to 5 points at half-time, leading with a score of 28-23. Perhaps, for 1st season Ng Han Bin, the 2nd Quarter would be best remembered for him as the Quarter which he finally got his first points. Han Bin would finish off with 7 points in this game.
Just when fans were wondering if Aquino or Belga would get fouled out of the game first, Ross and Weinstein were gathering points for the team until Belga got fouled out and tensions ran high. A seemingly innocious challenge on Skinner saw the Centre earning his 5th foul of the game and the team coach and its bench were seen protesting to the referee. The Slingers shrugged off the boos of the visiting crowd and gathered 28 points in the 3rd Quarter itself, as it distance itself from MERALCO by 8 points.
The loss of Gabby Espinas in the 4th Quarter, coupled with some hot-headed moments from both sides saw the Slingers doing the job as they send in basket after basket. Skinner was already winning every rebound in the game and scoring whilst the Manila team seemed clueless from the numerous questions thrown by the home team. At the end, Skinner’s 24 points was enough to lead the team to victory as the PBA team made the Slingers sweat for the win. Final score was 77-64.
Post game, we caught up with debutant Leo Avenido, who got 10 points in the yellow jersey, and he was all smiles. Commenting that it was ‘a good feeling to be on court’ and being ‘a fan of the Singapore Slingers’, the ex-Barracuda revealed that Al-Vergara influenced his move to the Slingers. He had also admitted that the prospect of playing for a title challenger to the ABL entice him to join the Singapore team and he hope that his experience would be useful to the Slingers. The 31-year old guard also cited the fact that the Slingers had a more developed team as a reason to his transfer from the Brunei-based team.
In the meanwhile, Centre Kyle Jeffers, with 18 points to his game, admitted that the team did not shoot too well in the game but was glad that it did not haunt the team. Jeffers was however, pleased that the team stick together and played as a team. On his new Pinoy team mate, Jeffers was happy that he had shaken off from the ‘first game jitters’ and looked forward to him contributing more to the Slingers. As for Skinner, Jeffers was all smiles as he proclaimed that he ‘would be more than happy with any team-mates who can help me (him) with rebounds in a game, as long as we (Jeffers and Skinner) are not snatching from each other”.
The last game in the Singapore Challenge would pit Air21 Express from the PBA against the Singapore Slingers at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 19 September 2010. Tip off is at 4pm and tickets are already out on sale. According to Michael Johnson, General Manager of the Singapore Slingers, this would be ‘the sternest challenge’ for the Slingers as they prepare for the 2nd ABL season starting in October 2010.