The Westports Malaysia Dragons pulled off a 72-71 upset victory over the previously unbeaten San Miguel Alab Pilipinas.
Without import Winston Shepard, the Dragons relied more on the locals, surprising the visitors early with their outside shooting and giving the home team an early nine-point lead after a shot clock-beating three by Chan Kek Thai bounced in off the backboard.
The defending ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) champions, however, were able to cut the lead to only one going into the second quarter thanks to Renaldo Balkman and Brandon Rosser combining for an 8-0 scoring run.
Alab Pilipinas was able to regain control of the game with a huge dunk by Balkman giving them their first lead of the game midway through the second quarter, holding on to a 37-35 lead at the half.
The Dragons struggled with turnovers early in the third quarter allowing Alab to start on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to nine. The Dragons were scoreless in the first three minutes of the third quarter until a basket by import Chris Eversley sparked a comeback which culminated in a Jonathan Wong lay up cutting the lead to only one.
Despite the Dragon’s push, the Filipino squad were still able to use their size advantage, pushing their lead to five going into the final quarter thanks to Balkman and Lawrence Domingo.
The final quarter was an exciting affair as the Dragons inched their way closer after Alab Pilipinas struggled to overcome the Dragon’s zone defense. The Singaporean born Jonathan Wong was able to convert a long three-pointer off the backboard with two minutes remaining to finally claw the lead back for the Dragons.
As the saying goes, never underestimate the heart of champions, and through calm and composed offense, the league-leaders were able to regain the lead through baskets by Balkman and the 7-foot-3 PJ Ramos with 31 seconds remaining.
Off the timeout, the Dragons turned to non other than Wong, who was able to finish a difficult lay up over Caelan Tiongson with 15 seconds remaining. Wong earned player of the game honors with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Not calling a timeout, Alab raced up the court in their attempt to find the winning basket but were unfortunate as rookie guard Ethan Alvano threw an errant pass out of bounds, sending Alab Pilipinas to their first lost of the season.
Dragon’s assistant coach Izran Edika remarked: “We knew zone defense would cause them trouble because we saw how they had a tough time against the Singapore Slingers. Even in moments whey they looked like they had a solution for our defense, we just decided to keep it up and thankfully Jonathan made some huge baskets for us down the stretch.”
The Dragons will attempt to go over the 0.500 mark against the Wolf Warriors at home on the 13th of January, while Alab Pilipinas will look to rebound on their home floor against Hong Kong Eastern on the 11th of January.
Follow us on Twitter at @aseansports1.