By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
By Marcus Chhan
The defending ABL champions had lost their opening two games before Tuesday and had to dig deep to get a result at Mahaka Square against the league leading Malaysians.
The Dragons led for most of the game thanks to another standout performance from star player Cedric Bozeman, who scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but the Warriors fought back through Steven Demon Thomas (15 points, 14 rebounds, 1 block).
Crucially for the Warriors, Thomas' only block of the game came with three seconds left to deny Malaysian Shee Fai Loh a game winning layup.
It was the visitors who started the hungrier of the two teams.
The Dragons have the ability to score in a hurry and things were not looking good for Warriors coach Todd Purves less than three minutes into the contest with the score 0-11. Shortly after that, Chris Daniels (14 points, 11 rebounds) was called for travelling, and Purves must have been fuming when his defenders then allowed Gavin Earl Edwards to wrap the ball around his back before laying it up for two points on the next play.
The Warriors' first points of the game came only from the charity stripe were two free-throws from Thomas came with 6:33 left in the first.
However, the Warriors would finish the quarter strongly with five quick points from Christian Ronaldo Sitepu helping the home team close the period trailing 14-22.
At the start of the second, though, the Dragons looked to heat up once again as Edwards found Bozeman for an open look from beyond the arc which he buried.
Edwards had a productive game with 18 points and 13 rebounds but he turned the ball over seven times during the match which cost the Dragons. The Warriors actually outscored the Dragons by 10 points from points off turnovers.
As the second quarter wore on, the champions began to look more and more comfortable at both ends of the floor, and when point guard John Smith lost his marker with a deadly cross-over, the former Saigon Heat player cut the lead to seven points by hitting a pull-up jumper.
A nice give and go between Thomas and Jerick Canada saw the guard get to the line soon after Smith's bucket, but the Warriors player missed both free-throws and score remained 18-25. He would make amends shortly by nailing a jumper to cut the lead down further to just five points - yet some poor defending allowed the visitors back to maintain a healthy lead midway through the second period.
Slack marking on the perimeter gave Dragons shooter John Ng the opportunity he needed to score a three pointer before team-mate Guga Batumalai sank a triple of his own to establish a 10 point lead with just over five minutes left before half-time.
Perhaps fearing a tongue lashing from coach Purves at the break, the Warriors refused to wait until the third quarter to make their move. First, Thomas converted from close range and then Canada, who had 12 points in total, followed up with a pretty left-handed layup.
Then a moment which Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia will hate.
With his team leading 31-37 and just seven seconds to go before half-time, his team allowed the dangerous Mario Wuysang to bring the ball further up court and launch a desperation three.
Mario, who scored 23 points in his last game against the Heat, was fouled by Loh on the continuation. The Warriors guard made all three free throws and the teams came out for the third quarter with only three points separating them.
In the third, Mario hurt the Dragons once more as he began the period with a two pointer to cut the lead to just a single point.
And with a quarter and a half of basketball to go, the Warriors took the lead for the first time on Tuesday when Canada sunk a two-pointer for score line to read 42-40.
Coach Vanguardia called a full-time out to regroup and his men must have thought they would take some momentum into the fourth quarter following Edwards' tipped dunk on a Yoong Jing Kwaan miss. But the Warriors got the crowd right back into the game as Daniels touched on a pass beautifully to Canada for an easy deuce.
The fourth quarter began with the Warriors trailing 52-53 and both teams tightened up their defences to ensure a tense finish to the game. It was a low scoring affair but Edwards' volleyball spike block on Canada's tame effort near the rim after a minute and a half was high basketball excitement.
Thomas, again, was the man to break the scoring drought for the Warriors as he hit two free throws to edge his team in front with 6:31 left.
It became a back and forth game after this and the Dragons - for all their good ball movement in the first half - were starting to settle for less high percentage shots in the final period. Content with allowing Bozeman to ‘make something happen' they fell behind 68-67 with just over a minute left in the game.
The ball went to Bozeman who managed to draw the contact from Daniels. It was a poor foul to concede as the Dragons ace was actually going away from the basket and it resulted in Daniels fouling out.
However, Bozeman inexplicably missed both free-throws with 0:57 remaining.
At the other end of the floor, the Warriors couldn't ice the game leaving the Dragons to break forward once more in search of a potential game winning basket. The ball broke to Loh on the right corner, and he drove to the basket but his attempt was blocked by Thomas with three seconds remaining.
Bozeman would have a tough off-balance shot right at the death to try and win it after the timeout but it would not fall and the Warriors picked up their first win of the season.
Quarter scoring: Q1(14-22) Q2(20-15) Q3(18-16) Q4(16-14)
Full-Time: Warriors 68-67 Dragons
Indonesia Warriors: Steve Thomas - 15, Chris Daniels - 14, Jerick Canada - 12, Mario Wuysang - 7, John Smith - 6, Christian Ronaldo Sitepu - 5, Amin Prihantono - 5, Rich Smith - 4.
Westports Malaysia Dragons: Cedric Bozeman - 24, Gavin Edwards - 18, John Ng - 7, Guga Batumalai - 5, Mark Jeffries - 5, Loh Shee Fai - 2, Patrick Cabahug - 2, Seelan Kuppusamy - 2.