ABL: Dragons show Heat no mercy

Westports Malaysia Dragons may have already locked up the third seed but still gave it their all to beat Saigon Heat by nine points on Sunday.

Justin Melton.

Marcus Hubbard's thunderous two-handed slam with 3 minutes left in the game lifted the Dragons to a 93-84 victory over the Heat at MABA Stadium in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).

Hubbard scored 27 points to lead the Dragons while Gavin Edwards recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Justin Melton also posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists for the Dragons who have now won 8 in a row at home.

Another outstanding performer was Dragons' captain Guga Batumalai who scored 18 points off the bench. "Guga had an unbelievable game and that's the kind of performace I'm hoping from him in the playoffs," said Dragons' head coach Ariel Vanguardia after the game.

Coming on to the court with 5 minutes left in the first period, Guga immediately made his presence felt as he sank back to back three point shots to give the Dragons a 22-14 lead with 3:27 left. The Heat also had trouble stopping Hubbard in the quarter as he scored 13 points in the first 10 minutes. Hubbard closed out the first quarter with a three, giving the Dragons a 30-21 lead.

In the next quarter, Saigon started to trim the Dragons' lead behind their two imports. Justin Howard and David Palmer scored 7 straight points to open the period, cutting their deficit to 30-28. Saigon briefly held a 41-38 lead on a Jai Reyes three point shot with 2 minutes left before halftime.

However, Hubbard and Edwards immediately put a stop to the Heat run. Hubbard scores on a pull up jumpshot and Edwards throws down a slam dunk before Hubbard's layup capped off a 6-0 Dragons run to put them ahead 44-41 at halftime.

Howard tied the game at 57 with 4 minutes left in the third period, but the Dragons halted the Heat comeback as they went on a 13-0 run capped by another three-point shot from Guga.

Saigon still refused to go away easily. A baseline layup from Larry Tieu and a pair of free throws from Reyes got the Heat to within three points with 7 minutes left in the game.

Unfortunately for Saigon, that was as close as they were able to get for the rest of the game. Malaysia scored 9 straight points to regain a double-digit lead with 5:44 left after Guga knocked down a three-pointer. Hubbard then made sure his team secured their 12th win of the season after putting the finishing touch with a powerful two handed slam with 3 minutes left.

"I just came out to play and try to get the win. We just want to build momentum heading into the playoffs," said Hubbard after helping the Dragons improve to a 12-8 record.

Malaysia overcame an impressive performance from Howard who scored an ABL career-high with 37 points in addition to his 15 rebounds. Palmer also had a double-double with 20 points and 12 boards while Reyes chipped in 13 points.

Malaysia will host the hot-streaking San Miguel Beermen for this week's ABL Friday Basketball on FOX SPORTS at MABA Stadium, Malaysia for the 8PM local/HKT tip-off.

Meanwhile, the Heat will travel to Bangkok to play against Sports Rev Thailand Slammers at Nimibutr Stadium, Thailand with the home side looking to secure a place in the ABL Playoffs.

Quarter scoring: Q1(30-21) Q2(14-20) Q3(26-22) Q4(23-21)

Full-Time: Dragons 93-84 Heat

Dragons: Hubbard - 27, Batumalai - 18, Edwards- 18, Melton - 11, Tautuaa - 11, Armon - 5, Ng - 3.

Heat: Howard - 37, Palmer - 20, Reyes - 13, Sumalinog - 7,Tieu - 4, Gonzales - 3.

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