ABL: Warriors keep up with streaking Beermen

The Indonesia Warriors and San Miguel Beermen continued their tussle at the ABL summit after wins over the Saigon Heat and Sports Rev Thai Slammers respectively.

Val Acuna

The defending ABL champions Indonesia Warriors cruised to a 77-63 win over the Saigon Heat to keep pressure on the San Miguel Beermen, who themselves salvaged a 78-70 victory over the Sports Rev Thai Slammers on Wednesday.

All eyes were on the return of Warriors' star point guard Stanley Pringle, who was set to make his first appearance this season after undergoing surgery on a meniscus injury in early January.

However, his anticipated return ended on a quiet note as it was his team mates who stepped up to seal the win for the Warriors - Chris Daniels in particular shone with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six steals to add to Jerick Canada (14), John Smith (15) and Steven Thomas' (17) points tally.

The game was far from a blowout anticipated against the dead-bottom Heat side of the ABL who were struck by a big blow when league-wide top scorer Dior Lowhorn was struck with an injury.

Justin Howard proved to be a capable replacement for Lowhorn by stepping up to fill the gap by sinking 17 points and grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds while Jai Reyes (18) and David Palmer 17) contributed in the scoring as well.

Coach Todd Purves' men started the game stronger with Smith showing why he was kept in the squad despite Pringle's return with 10 points in the first quarter to open up a 21-14 lead. 

The Heat then went on to show admirable fortitude with a 10-2 run at the start of the second quarter to retake the lead at 24-23 - only to lose it within minutes as the Warriors replied with a 13-2 run of their own.

It was only through the amazing effort of Jai Reyes, who sunk all three 3-pointers in the half on top of leading his side's counter-attacks, that the Heat went into the break within touch at 41-36.

It was in the third quarter that the Warriors began to drag their lead wider, and it ended with coach Purves driving the tempo of the game up a notch to take advantage of the Heat's poor shooting from the field and hit them on the break. Thomas and Daniels were especially efficient in the second half of the game against a Heat side who couldn't match their presence under the basket to open up a 21-point gap at the end of the period.

The Heat attempted to rally in the final quarter with Palmer and Howard attacking the paint but their effort wasn't enough to close down the gap as the Warriors saw out the 77-63 win at the Tan Binh Stadium.

In the other game of the evening, the Sam Miguel Beermen recorded a 78-70 win over the Sports Rev Thailand Slammers at the Nimibutr Stadium despite missing injured star man Chris Banchero to continue their winning steak in the ABL.

It was far from a straightforward win for the Leo Austria's side despite taking a massive 28-12 lead in the first quarter. The Slammers showed admirable tenacity to fight back to take a seven-point lead in the third quarter, only for a late surge from the Beermen to ensure that they maintain their one-win advantage at the top of the league.

Slammers' local player Darongpan Apiromvilaichai had an impressive outing shooting 56% from the field for 12 points to add to Chris Charles' 16-point tally, but it wasn't enough as the Beermen's veteran Pauliasi Taulava scored a game-high 18 points while Leo Avenido stepped up in place of Banchero's absence with 15 points for the Beermen.

The Indonesian Warriors will be in action again on Friday when they host the Westports Malaysia Dragons while the Beermen will face the Heat at the Ynares Sports Arena on Saturday.

The pick of this week's tie is undoubtedly on Sunday's clash between the Singapore Slingers and the Slammers with both sides fighting neck to neck for the fourth and final play-off spot in the ABL.



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