ABL: Red-hot Dragons pile misery on Slingers

A clinical performance from the Westports Malaysia Dragons saw them blow away the Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers 93-63 at the MABA Stadium.

Marcus Hubbard, Malaysia Dragons
Kelvin Yap

By Kelvin Yap

The massive loss was deja vu for the Slingers, who capitulated to a 75-56 defeat against the Dragons less than two weeks ago at the same stadium in their last match before the ABL Hoops Fest.

Rashaad Singleton poured in 25 points, hit 65% from the field top top the game's scoring charts and grabbed 11 rebounds in the process, but it wasn't enough to make up for lacklustre performances from the Slingers, who are now on a five-game losing run.

Rashad Jones-Jennings had a woeful game, making only three out of his 12 field goal attempts as he ended the game with only six points while former Saigon Heat guard Phillip Morrison failed to impress for the Slingers having signed for them two days earlier as he ended his debut with only three points - a single field goal converted out of seven attempted. 

In contrast, the Dragons' Marcus Hubbard shone in his home debut with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Gavin Edwards and Justin Melton also contributed 23 points and 18 points respectively in a match where the hosts finished with a 51% field goal percentage.

The tone of the match was set at the start of the match when both sides landed their first attempts at the basket - a positive attacking change for the Slingers, who are usually content to wait out the shot clock to look for an open shot.

A 100% shooting performance in the opening period from both Hubbard and Edwards saw them both breach double figures in the first quarter as they fired the Dragons to a 30-19 lead. Their red-hot shooting summed up the Dragon's astonishing showing - the entire team missed only three shots from the field for a 79% field goal accuracy and converted all four of their three-point attempts.

Wong Wei Long stepped up for the Slingers in the second quarter and converted a four point play off a foul by the Dragons' Guga Batumalai, but the Dragons captain immediately made up for it however as he sank a three and then made a gorgeous pick and roll for Gavin Edwards, who converted it into a dunk to put his team up 41 to 26 with 6:30 left till the half. 

The Dragons then continued their hot scoring form and stretched their lead to 21 points with a little over two minutes remaining via Edwards as both Singleton and Jones-Jennings were benched after commiting three fouls in the first two quarters. 

The Slingers tried to rally late in the dying minutes when Donald Singleton put in a huge dunk and earned a foul. Singleton missed the free throw, but the Slingers were able to maintain possession off the rebound however and in a moment of déjà vu, Singleton once again jams the ball and is sent to the line. This time he converted the three point play to slash the Dragons' lead down to 14 points at 51-37.

It wasn't to be, however, as Melton made a buzzer beater along with a foul which he successfully converted to help the Dragons end the half with a comfortable 16-point lead. The match was effectively over by then - the Slingers have only average 60.6 points per game this season, while the Dragons already have 54 at half-time.

The game cooled off in the third quarter but the Dragons maintained their advantage after Guga landed a jumper to beat the buzzer again to give his side a 71-49 lead into the final quarter.

The Slingers' woes continued in the final quarter when Jones-Jennings fouled out with more than half the quarter left. Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia then easily saw out the match by rotating the bench players on the court, and they managed to keep up the fine overall shooting performance as the hosts finished the game with 51% of their field goals converted.

Vanguardia was visibly pleased with the win after the match. He said: "We played well today. We haven't been playing well recently- it has been roller-coaster for us.

When asked whether his side can build on this performance to mount a late challenge for the ABL title, the coach added: "We hope that this win will be the start of something for us, but it's too early to say that. 

"We got blown out by the champions [Indonesia Warriors] and in Manila [against the Beermen] as well. I don't want to be optimistic now. When I get hopeful, we got blown out. For now, we will savour this victory tonight, but it will be more work again for us on Monday.

Hubbard, who was the player of the game, was happy with the win on his home debut. He said: "I'm happy to give the fans what they want. I don't care about points or rebounds, as long as we get the win, I'm happy.

The Singapore Slingers will have to recover quickly for their next match, which will be two days from now when they host the San Miguel Beermen at the SIngapore Indoor Stadium on Sunday while the Dragons will host Saigon Heat in Malaysia next Friday.

Quarter scoring: Q1(30-19) Q2(24-18) Q3(17-12) Q4(22-14)

Full-Time: Dragons 93-63 Slingers

Dragons: Edwards - 23pts, Melton - 18pts, Hubbard - 17pts 12 reb, 

Slingers: Singleton - 25 pts 11 rebs, Wong -9pts, Cabatu - 8pts

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