THE national basketball team were brought back down to earth after a 95-69 thrashing at the hands of Macau in the Third China-Asean Basketball Invitational tournament at Pingguo County, Guangxi, China on Sunday.
Leong Shi Cheng scored a game-high 33 points to propel Macau to victory. Teammates Wong Chi San and Lo Hip Meng each poured in 11 points. Tamtim Lao was the only player on Macau's roster that registered a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile two national cagers captured a double-double in the match. Benjamin Sim scored 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Zainul Hussin chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Foo Gwen Tong and Soon Kian Leong netted 10 points and nine points respectively in the loss.
Brunei were left trailing all the way from the first quarter which ended 23-11. At half-time, the scoreboard showed the scores at 40-26 in favour of Macau. After the restart, the national-side failed to close in as Macau extended their lead to 77-45. The closest Brunei ever got to their opponents was midway through the final quarter, in which they cut a 30-point lead down to 18 points. Yet left in the backfoot throughout the match, Brunei finally succumbed to a 95-69 defeat.
The key to Macau's victory lied in their speed advantage, which they used against the national cagers time and time again by running the lanes after a defensive rebound for a quick basket. This is what led Leong to top-score in the match.
Brunei also had themselves to blame for the missed free throws and blown defensive assignments, although both teams were equal in foul trouble and neither had the rebounding advantage.
Another element that led to their loss was how Macau locked down Filipino imports Don Mordeno and Marjomar Aying with their stingy halfcourt press.
Hoping for a better finish than their campaign in 2008 which they finished fifth, that dream is now all but dashed.
Only a battle of pride is left for the national cagers, who were tasked against Vietnam for seventh and eighth place last night. Malaysia, who defeated the latter in the other match of the day, will take on Macau in the 5th and 6th place match.
Brunei should be able to notch up a win against Vietnam, for it was against them that the national cagers registered their first win in Group B on Saturday. The latter was defeated 87-83 to close off the group stage with a win.
They started off the campaign with a 100-58 demolition by hosts Guangxi last Tuesday, followed by an 83-57 thrashing by Hong Kong on Thursday.
Led by national basketball coach Kevin Reece, this competition marks the first time that the national team are working alongside the top Filipino players in the country.
Others on the roster include up and coming youngsters Lim Liang Wei and Cavan Kong, and experienced duo Po Yung Hui and Jong Guo Zhang.
The team started their third quarter training programme in mid October, practicing on an average of four-and-a half days a week.
To prepare for the outing in China, the national basketball team also took on Miri Kinsar Team late November in a tune-up match. Without fielding their Filipino imports, they won 80-61 at Pei Min Middle School.
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