The Kuala Lumpur Dragons may not have been the most anticipated team entering the 10th season of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), but at this stage of the season, they sure have looked good so far.
The Malaysia-based team overcame a 17-point first half deficit against the Formosa Dreamers at home Sunday afternoon. Hot off the bench, team veteran Loh Shee Fai’s 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists helped power his team to the come-from-behind victory.
It was a Loh go-ahead three-pointer which gave the Dragons a slim lead down the stretch, before opposing guard Anthony Tucker fired what was at the time a dagger deep ball late in the closing moments. The 6’3” guard’s presence beyond the perimeter provided a scare for the Dreamers, but he refuses to take credit for what went down in the hard-fought contest.
“I wouldn’t say it’s me who started the run, but I’m always ready to compete regardless of if I’m starting or not,” Loh said following the game. “The locals will have to help our imports in many aspects, [because] they are playing almost 40 non-stop minutes most of the time.”
He further explained how he and other locals are aware of and embrace their roles within the team, even if the tasks may commonly be seen as “dirty work.”
“So when we get into the game, we have to share the workload with them,” the veteran local continued. “We need to let them [the imports] know we will run the game together, even if [we] only do the little things.”
After a disappointing road loss to an underwhelming Hong Kong Eastern team four days prior, the Dragons knew a win on their home floor against an underrated Dreamers squad would provide a crucial bounce back. But more importantly, the defeat in Hong Kong handed the Dragons an important lesson in securing leads, especially with a season that still has a long way to go before consummation.
“I believe that sort of experience at the beginning of the season is always good for the team,” Loh stressed with confidence in response to how the team regrouped following the tough Eastern loss.
“The loss to Hong Kong will serve as a lesson to us, always reminding ourselves not to loosen up whenever we have a lead. So to me, that is a very valuable experience.”
If there is a player who could speak words of encouragement that would resonate with the team, it would be the 30-year-old Loh, who has been with the Dragons since the very beginning. The sharpshooter has been there for the highs and lows, and knows the importance of not just winning games, but succeeding for the entirety of a season.
“I think our defense is better now compared to our championship season, where we emphasized a lot on offense,” elaborated Loh, who was a key part of the Dragons’ 2015-16 ABL championship run. “Especially with our head coach [Jamie Pearlman] who stresses the importance of defense, and that gets us going on transitional offense too.”
The ten seasons of ABL experience has also humbled Loh, who understands it is solely up to team to win the league outright again.
“There are no weak teams in this league, it’s up to each team to play their best game to beat one another,” the veteran closed.
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