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Basketball: Malaysia Dragons join Bangkok City in ABL finals

Westports Malaysia Dragons beat the Saigon Heat 102-92 in Ho Chi Minh City to win their semi-finals series 2-0 and book a place against Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the ABL finals. Photo: Norman Goh / www.aseanbasketballleague.com.

Westports Malaysia Dragons beat the Saigon Heat 102-92 in Ho Chi Minh City to win their semi-finals series 2-0 and book a place against Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the ABL finals. Photo: Norman Goh / www.aseanbasketballleague.com.

November 2, 2014: Top seeds Westports Malaysia Dragons earned their first trip to the ASEAN Basketball League finals after eliminating the Saigon Heat with a 102-92 win in the second game of the semi-finals.

 

After a 108-90 romp in the opener in Kuala Lumpur, the Dragons secured a 2-0 series victory over the Heat, with coach Ariel Vanguardia full of praise for the opponents.

 

“I have a huge respect for the Heat’s organisation,” Vanguardia said. “They are well coached and their fans are amazing. They had the lead in the first half, but our team showed some character today and did not give up. I’m very proud of our team’s efforts.”

 

The Dragons will host second seeds Hi-Tech Bangkok City on Saturday night (November 8) at the MABA Stadium, before game two is held at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Bangkok on November 11. A third game, if necessary, will be held at MABA Stadium on November 14.

 

Justin Knox was in confident mood ahead of the finals. “I’m very confident with my team,” Knox said. “We just have to play every game like it’s our last game and play like we have been playing in the last seven games of the season. We have to play together and play smart.”

 

Knox and Avery Scharer had a tremendous game for the Dragons in Ho Chi Minh City. Knox finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Scharer recorded his second trip-double of the season with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 18 assists and five steals. Chris Eversley also contributed 17 points, while Moala Tautuaa and Loh Shee Fai finished with 16 points each for the Dragons who scored 68 points in the paint.

 

Playing in a sold-out CIS Arena, the Heat did their damage early and went up 12-7 with 4:36 left after David Arnold converted his three-point play. Arnold, Justin Williams and Leo Avenido combined for 22 points to give the Heat a 24-18 edge after the first quarter.

 

Avenido continued to hurt the Dragons in the second quarter by drilling four three-pointers. Four minutes before half-time, the Heat pushed their lead 13 points at 41-28 following Avenido’s three-pointer. The Heat then led 50-42 at the break, with Avenido leading the way with 18 points.

 

However, the hosts were unable to sustain their energy in the second half. The Dragons started to take advantage by pushing the tempo and burned the Heat on transition. Eversley gave the Dragons their first lead at 63-62 with 2:34 left in the third period after draining an open shot from behind the arc. Scharer continued to impress as he found Tautuaa for the dunk with a no-look, wrap-around pass that gave the Dragons a 69-63 lead.

 

In the final quarter, the Dragons attacked the Heat’s interior defence and crashed the offensive boards. They put together a 12-1 run, capped by a three-pointer from Scharer, to build an 87-69 cushion with 6:20 left.

 

Saigon tried to make a late rally after Arnold sparked a 15-5 run which brought the Heat within seven points at 91-84 with 2:52 left. But the Heat forgot about Knox on the next play, as dunked the ball uncontested to break the Heat’s momentum. Tatuaa’s putback with 2:35 remaining sealed it for the Dragons.

 

Avenido led all scorers with 30 points and Williams finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds. Arnold had 19 points and Dijon Thompson added 17 points.

 

                         Q1 / Q2 / Q3 / Q4

Heat                  24 / 26 / 15 / 27

Dragons            18 / 24 / 31 / 29

 

Saigon Heat: Avenido – 30, Williams – 27, Arnold – 19, Thompson – 17.

Westports Malaysia Dragons: Knox – 29, Scharer – 17, Eversley – 17, Loh – 16, Tautuaa – 16, Ban Sin – 5, Tong – 1, Kuek – 1.

 

Source: ASEAN Basketball League (www.aseanbasketballleague.com); Editing by SportAsia

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