After dropping its 2019 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoffs opener, the Saigon Heat evened up its series with the CLS Knights Indonesia at one game apiece with an 86-81 win at CIS Arena on Wednesday night.
In a must-win situation to stave off elimination, the Saigon Heat started off game two blazing. The home team was able to jump off to an early 16-7 lead thanks in large part to local player Corey Cilia’s hot shooting. The guard drained three long balls within the first four minutes of game time and finished the quarter with 12 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
Both squads kept things relatively close for the majority of the contest, with the Heat’s largest advantage being its early 9-point lead in the first period, while the Knights momentarily held an 8-point edge about halfway through the third quarter.
With the game winding to a close in the dying minutes of a pivotal fourth quarter, the Knight’s Sandy Kurniawan hit a huge three-pointer to put his team up by five points with 2:32 left to go. Nearing another playoffs sweep, Kyle Barone came up big in the clutch for a Heat organization hungry for its first-ever postseason victory.
During a 10-0 run to close out the final stretch of game two, the Heat big man went on to score seven clutch points, including a momentum shifting catch-and-shoot three-pointer while fading away to tie the game at 81-81 with 1:28 left on the clock, and a go-ahead layup off a Justin Young offensive rebound that gave his team the lead for good.
The Knights were given one last opportunity when Maxie Esho was sent to the charity stripe with 25 seconds showing and his team trailing by two, but any hope for the visitors to steal the game was all but lost after Esho missed both free throws.
Trevon Hughes led all scorers with 30 points in addition to seven rebounds and four assists, while Kyle Barone finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. After his hot start, Corey Cilia cooled off to end his night with 13 points and six boards while going 4-of-5 from deep.
The Knights were led by imports Maxie Esho and Darryl Watkins, who both notched double-doubles. The former finished with 21 points and 11 boards, while the latter had 20 points and 13 boards.
The series-deciding game is set to commence on April 7, in Surabaya, Indonesia, where both teams will be looking to win their first ABL playoff series.
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