ABL: Brave Slingers snuff out Heat

The return of Dior Lowhorn could not inspire the Saigon Heat as the Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers won 76-72 at Tan Binh Stadium on Friday.

Rashad Jones-Jennings
Marcus Chhan

By Marcus Chhan

Lowhorn had missed Sunday's ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) defeat to the Slingers in Singapore because of a hamstring injury but he returned to coach Jason Rabedeaux's starting five in Vietnam - and contributed with 31 points.

However, it was the visitors who pulled off the crucial win on the back of a courageous display from Rashad Jones-Jennings, who had 29 points and 19 rebounds.

Kyle Jeffers was also a factor with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Slingers as they improved to 4-3 for the season while the Heat drop to 3-4.

The Heat raced to an early five point lead from the tip-off as David Palmer (13 points) hit a three before Lowhorn scored his first two points of the night.

The Singers answered right back with four quick points of their own as Jones-Jennings got good position inside to get the bucket and the foul - he would miss the free-throw but from the offensive rebound Singapore guard Mitchell Folkoff made a long two on his way to seven first quarter points.

The home side, though, were shooting the ball at a high 61% (11/18) from the field in the opening period and went up 21-15 with 3:24 remaining on a Jai Reyes finish at the basket.

Palmer would pick up a second foul - on Jones-Jennings - as the quarter came to a close and this would be a significant factor as the big American along with Karl Dehesa and Phillip Morrison would all foul out later in the game.

A closely contested second quarter saw the Slingers take a one point lead into the half-time break as Jeffers, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, exploded for eight points.

With Lowhorn scoring at free-will (he had 18 points at the half) for the Heat, the visitors earned their money on the boards where they outrebounded their opponents 26-18 after two quarters.

The extra-effort on the boards helped them register eight more second chance points than the Heat at this point and another telling statistic was the Slingers' absolute domination in the paint where they outscored the Heat by 18 points at the half.

One of those buckets came right at the end when Jeffers found Jones-Jennings open for the two-handed flush to make it 36-35 to the Slingers as both teams headed into the dressing rooms.

This lead didn't last long, though, and the Heat were able to build a nice bit of momentum to start the third.

Palmer's three kicked things off and then the Heat center really got the crowd going with two successive blocks - the second was an aggressive volleyball-type spike on the unfortunate Desmond Oh.

Then the partisan home support did their best to try and put Jones-Jennings off his game by jeering the American after he missed an open dunk.

It didn't work. He would score nine points in the third quarter and another seven in the final period.

"I love crowds like this. It gets me pumped up," Jones-Jennings said in his post-match interview.

A pair of easy baskets - first from Oh and then Jones-Jennings - for the Slingers to start the fourth pushed their lead out to 63-54.

Then a sequence of events happened with just over eight minutes left which may have cost the Heat the chance of victory on Friday.

After the referees tagged Jones-Jennings with a technical foul for complaining their decision to send Lowhorn to the line, the Heat ‘big' missed both his foul attempts. Reyes then stepped up to the charity stripe for the two technical free-throws but missed them both as well. The Heat, who retained possession because of the technical foul, then saw Palmer air-ball a shot from beyond the arc meaning the Slingers had somehow managed to keep their nine-point lead intact despite not seeing the ball for a stretch.

And when Jones-Jennings faked Palmer for an easy lay-up with 33 seconds to go the Slingers were looking very comfortable with a six point lead at 72-66.

But Morrison came back the other way for the Heat, drew the foul and made the lay-up and the resulting free-throw to cut it back to a three point game with 25.3 seconds left.

The Slingers called timeout and on the next play coach Neo Beng Siang cleverly worked the ball to Jeffers, forcing Palmer to foul out of the game.

Jeffers, who had to be fouled another two more times before he could be sent to the line, only made one free throw but his team still led 73-69 with 19.8 seconds to go.

The Heat called timeout to bring the ball up past centre court but they made a hash out of the inbounds pass which eventually allowed the Slingers to close out the 76-72 victory at Tan Binh Stadium.

"Everybody fought hard," Neo said.

"We stayed together and stayed hard. This win is really big for us."

The Slingers outrebounded the Heat 51-34 and now head into Sunday's home game against the San Miguel Beermen in confident mood.

The Heat, on the other hand, will try to snap their two-game losing streak on March 1st when they host the Chang Thailand Slammers. 

Quarter scoring: Q1(24-22) Q2(11-14) Q3(19-23) Q4(18-17) 

Full-Time: Heat 72-76 Slingers

Heat: Lowhorn - 31, Reyes - 15, Palmer - 13, Dehesa - 5, Morrison - 5, Tieu - 3.

Slingers: Jones-Jennings - 29, Jeffers - 16, Folkoff - 12, Dulay - 9, Oh - 6, Cabatu - 4. 

ABL: Fixtures, Standings and Results.

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