The Singapore Slingers’ elusive championship was seemingly within reach, but once again, fate had other plans.
In their third ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals appearance, the Slingers fell short yet again, this time, to the BTN CLS Knights on their home floor in a do-or-die fifth meeting.
Another Finals, another empty-handed outcome.
Delvin Goh, one of the Slingers’ longest-tenured players, has lived through it all. He has played seven seasons with the franchise, and was part of the teams that lost to the Westports Malaysia Dragons and Hong Kong Eastern in back-to-back Finals trips between 2015-17.
“Some of us are pissed, sad, and I would say everyone is disappointed. You never really recover from a loss this close,” lamented Goh. “For guys that have been here throughout these four years, playing in all three finals, we know any one [championship] that we win will be sweet.”
Goh had his best Finals outing, breaking out with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and a blocked shot, while shooting 69 percent from the field in the Game 5 loss.
“I came in with a lot of aggression, emotion, and the eagerness to win the first ever ABL championship for not only the organization, but also for Singapore basketball,” shared Goh.
The 6-foot-7 forward didn’t have many plays drawn for him, but he was able to be efficient through being a workhorse on both ends, with his nine offensive boards being a testament to that.
“We watched the film and tried to capitalize on their defensive lapses to their offensive weaknesses. I came out going right at it and I scored those easy points. With the Game 4 loss at the back of our minds, we wanted to use how we felt in that loss, and tell ourselves we won’t be like this again, but we fell short once again.”
Leading for most of the game, the Slingers still held a 10-point edge at the 7:41 mark of the final period. But an inspired run by the Knights slowly chipped away at their lead.
Singapore still had a three-point advantage with 1:20 remaining, before the Knights’ Darryl Watkins tipped an offensive rebound off a Brandon Jawato miss to Maxie Esho, who quickly swished a three from the elbow.
The ensuing sequences will surely resonate with Slingers fans for a long time.
Wong Wei Long, Goh’s longtime Slingers teammate, who now plays for their Surabaya-based opponents, buried them with another booming triple.
Now down by three, the Slingers’ Xavier Alexander made a basket to cut it to 82-81 with 46 seconds remaining. But after the Knights missed a shot on the other end, Singapore could not buy a basket themselves, suffering their third franchise defeat in the Finals.
“I just wish we can bounce back, stay together, and come back stronger next year. Like what Kobe said after the Finals with Boston [in 2008], he was pissed, and I think we all should be,” he added.
“As much as we wanna have the same squad again but you never know what will happen, people retiring, people being more focused on work and school. We just don’t know what will happen.”
The 24-year-old big man also hinted about potentially regrouping with former Slingers teammates, without elaborating on specifics.
“I think everybody is key in the current team, and there might be other players that are currently not with the team. It would be a plus for them to come back but I still believe in whatever we have here this year.”
Some of their most notable players who were absent from this season’s lineup include Leon Kwek, Mitchell Folkoff, and Toh Qing Huang.
Disappointed and defeated, Goh wanted to thank all of the Slingers supporters, while reassuring everyone that they will work harder to return to a position to compete, and hopefully win their first league title.
“Thank you for having our backs throughout this season, and for the never-ending support. Thank you for the encouragements. I’m sorry, and for you people out there, we will be back stronger, so see you.”
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