ABL: Warriors frustrate brave Heat to stay top

The Indonesia Warriors consolidated their lead at the top of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) after hold off a valiant Saigon Heat with a 83-74 win in Jakarta.

Jerick Canada, Indonesia Warriors

One would have been forgiven for taking the game as a foregone conclusion given that both sides occupy the opposite ends of the ABL table, with the Warriors marching into the playoffs with a ruthless lead at the top while the Heat are rooted to the bottom coming into the game with an eight-game losing streak.

However, coach Jason Rabedeaux's men put up a fierce fight and almost threatened to repeat the feat of beating the Warriors again this season, only to fall short in the end after the Indonesian side clung on to the win with an impressive team effort in defence.

ABL top scorer Dior Lowhorn (27 points), David Palmer (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Jai Reyes (19 points) had major games for the Heat, but it wasn't enough to overcome an all-round performance from the Warriors, who had five players hit double digits in points. Most impressive among the home side is Jerick Canada, who landed 56% of his field goal attempts to end the game with 21 points and seven assists.

Both sides started the match brightly in a neck-and-neck battle for points and breached the double digit barrier at the five minute mark with the Heat taking a one-point 11-10 lead.

The parity soon faded as the visitors took advantage of a lethargic showing from the Warriors, who ended the first quarter with five turnovers conceded and trailed the Heat 19-24.

Coach Todd Purves' changes at the short first interval worked a charm as the Warriors emerged from the break a rejuvenated side and overturned the deficit to take a 10-point 39-27 lead halfway through the quarter thanks to Canada's fast breaks, a commanding performace at the board with 11 offensive rebounds.

The Heat looked like they were out of it with Lowhorn getting little joy at the basket going up against the imposing Steven 'Demon' Thomas, but they somehow managed to stay within touch going into the halftime break at 43-36 thanks to Palmer, who drew three fouls in succession and landed five of his six free throws.

The momentum of the game favoured the home side through the third quarter with a hot shooting from the outside as Canada and Amin Prihantono ended the quarter by landing a three-pointer each in the final minute.

However, disaster struck for the Warriors minutes into the final quarter when Thomas committed his fifth foul of the night after he knocked Lowhorn down on the turn. To exacerbate the situation for the Warriors, Chris Daniels joined Thomas on the bench barely a minute later with foul trouble as Lowhorn drew another foul under the basket.

Without the height in the paint, the Warriors' lead was quickly cut down by a 13-2 run by the Heat to just five points at 79-74 as Lowhorn went on a rampage under the basket, scoring 11 of his 27 points in the final quarter to silence the vociferous home crowd.

Just as it looked like the Heat were going to complete their comeback, Mario Wuysang stepped up and landed a vital basket after running the clock down before sealing the win for his side by drawing a foul on the outside with a minute left on the clock. He converted two of the three free throws which gave the Warriors an insurmountable 83-74 lead, much to the visible relief of the Indonesians on and off the court.

Coach Purves admitted after the game that the Warriors were far from their best.

"It wasn't a pretty win for us - we conceded a lot of turnovers but we did well enough to come out on top in the end." he said

"We had a little bit of foul trouble but it means that the bench had to step us. I'm glad that Richard Smith, Dodo [Sitepu] and a few others chipped in as well. I'm proud of the guys and they deserved the win."

Quarter scoring: Q1(19-24) Q2(26-12) Q3(21-20) Q4(17-18)

Full-Time: Warriors 83-74 Heat

Warriors: Canada - 21pts, 7ast; Daniels - 11pts, 13reb; Thomas - 10pts, 12rebs.

Heat: Lowhorn - 27pts; Palmer 21pts, 14reb; Reyes - 16 pts.

In the other ABL match on Wednesday evening, the Chang Thailand Slammers took a big step in the fight for the fourth and final playoff spot after defeating the Westports Malaysia Dragons 68-63 at the Nimibutr Stadium in Bangkok.

Chris Charles had a monster game with 35 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks, hitting 80% from the field for the Slammers in the closely-fought match while Dasom Wutipong added 15 points to the tally.

In contrast, the Dragons had to rely on 23 points from Moala Tautuaa and 15 points from Gavin Edwards while Marcus Hubbard had a disappointing outing after converting only one out of nine attempts from the field.

The Slammers move into fourth place in the table after leapfrogging the Singapore Slingers with a superior head-to-head record while the Dragons remain in third place.

The next ABL game will see two of the teams in action again on Friday as the Saigon Heat host the Chang Thailand Slammers at the Tan Binh Stadium.

Quarter scoring: Q1(19-24) Q2(26-12) Q3(21-20) Q4(17-18)

Full-Time: Slammers 68-63 Dragons

Slammers: Charles - 35pts, 17reb; Dasom - 15pts; Baguion - 11ast.

Dragons: Tautuaa - 23pts; Edwards - 15pts; Hubbard - 10reb.

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