ABL: Valiant Lowhorn fails to stop Dragons

Dior Lowhorn's heroic 35-point effort wasn't enough to stop the Westports Malaysia Dragons from handing the Saigon Heat a 75-64 defeat at the MABA Stadium.

Justin Melton.
Kelvin Yap

By Kelvin Yap

Lowhorn announced his return from the sidelines due to a virus with 35 points and 15 assists. His team mate David Palmer contributed 20 points and 17 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to stop an excellent all-round team effort from the Dragons, who were fired on by 21 points each from Gavin Edwards and Moala Tautuaa.

The Dragons came into the game as one of the most in-form teams in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) with four wins from their previous five games, including a 90-69 win over the Heat two weeks ago at the Hoops Fest in Vietnam and this game looked like it was headed for another blowout after the first quarter.

To say that the Heat had a slow start to the game would be an understatement; they fell behind 11-1 four minutes into the game and had to wait a further two more minutes to see Lowhorn score their first points from open play after 11 unsuccessful shots from the field. 

Their erratic shot selection had a major part to play in their wastefulness - the Heat were too eager to try for the basket and ended up shooting before properly posting up in the key.

The Dragons had an easy time earning points from the break to take a 19-7 lead into the first break, the highlight of which was a break led by Justin Melton, who laid up the ball off the board for Marcus Hubbard to run on for a two-handed alley-oop.

Heat coach Jason Rabedaux managed to improve his side in the second quarter by putting his big men under the basket, but it wasn't enough as the Dragons continued moving the ball around the court well via Melton to bring the ball to the basket.

However, things did turn a turn for the better for the visiting side in the third quarter when Hubbard committed two quick fouls on Lowhorn in the opening minutes - his third and fourth of the game - and was benched for the rest of the period.

Lowhorn took advantage of the former LA Clipper center's absence under the basket and poured in 14 points in the period to end the quarter on a strong note to cut the lead to just seven points at 52-45 entering the fourth quarter.

Just when it looked like the Heat were on the cusp of a remarkable comeback, Tautuaa stepped up for the Dragons and landed 11 straight points within a space of two remarkable minutes to drag open the lead to 65-54 with five minutes left to play.

The game then played out its final minutes on a bizarre note when a series of technical issues disrupted the momentum of both sides. A scoreboard malfunction held up the game, and it was followed by a series of slips on the court by both sets of players due to moisture on the floor, which led to several delays as the staff tried to clean the court to little success.

By then, there was too little time and momentum left in the game as the Dragons sealed up their seventh straight win at home while the Heat remain rooted to the bottom of the ABL table with their seventh consecutive loss.

Dragos coach Ariel Vanguardia gave credit to the Heat, acknowledging the valiant fight that they put up and tipped them to end the season well.

"We have to give credit to Saigon - they are well coached and they are a tough and dangerous team," he said after the match.

"Their previous loss came because they have only played with one import. Now that they have both [Lowhorn and Palmer] back, they will start racking up wins starting from now."

The Saigon Heat will travel to play Singapore at the Indoor Stadium on Sunday in search of their first win since January while the Westports Malaysia Dragons will viist the Chang Thailand Slammers next Wednesday at the Nimibutr Stadium.

Quarter scoring: Q1(19-7) Q2(16-14) Q3(17-24) Q4(23-19)

Full-Time: Dragons 75-64 Heat

Dragons: Edwards - 21pts, 10reb; Tautuaa - 21pts; Melton - 10pts.

Heat: Lowhorn - 35pts, 15reb; Palmer 20pts, 17reb

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