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Slingers Win Big Versus Dragons in Season Opener - Nov 26, 2016

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The Singapore Slingers wanted to make a statement in the opening of the seventh season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The message was clear, anything less than another shot at the ABL championship would be a disappointment for them. Carried by the hunger of imports Howard Justin (208-C-81, college: Mercer) and Alexander Xavier (198-G-88, college: S.Nazarene) and aided by the hot-shooting of Leon Kwek, the Slingers crushed the new-look Westports Malaysia Dragons, 80-62, Friday night at the OCBC Arena in Singapore. In a rematch of last year's ABL Finals, the Slingers looked like the more cohesive team as many of their members from that squad signed up once again as they'll try to give Singapore its first ABL title in history. On the other end, the Dragons' lineup was decimated by departures led by long-time head coach Ariel Vanguardia and all of their imports. Howard played all 40 minutes in the game as he led Singapore with 22 points and 7 rebounds. However, Slinger forwards Alexander and Kwek stole the show as they put up 20 points apiece while combining for 15 rebounds and 11 assists. 'We weren't able to prepare specifically for the Dragons because they have a lot of new players,' said Alexander after the game. 'But I kept telling my teammates that it's not about them [Dragons], it's about us. If we're able to do what we're supposed to, we'll win the game.' The score was deadlocked at 32 after the first 20 minutes of action. However, the Slinger offense suddenly came alive in the third as they started it with a 12-1 plast to build a comfortable 44-33 advantage. Wong Wei Long added to the Dragons' woes in the final period as he opened it up with a triple to stretch Singapore's lead to 17, 58-41. ASEAN Heritage import Freddie Goldstein (178-PG-88, college: S.Alabama) tried his best to fight back for the Dragons but he was largely alone in his crusade. On the other end, the familiarity of the Slingers showed as they completed fast break attacks off rebound and leak out plays. It also showed in the assist category with 22 dishes compared to only 4 for the Dragons. Goldstein led the Dragons with 22 points with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals but he turned the ball over 7 times and shot only 30% from the field. The performance of Westports Malaysia's World imports was underwhelming as Marcus Melvin (206-F-82, college: N.Carolina St.) finished with 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting from the field while Skylar Spender only managed 7 points and 11 rebounds. To add to the problems of the Dragons, big man Kuek Tian Yuan, who had 10 points in the game, rolled his ankle in the second half. Luckily for them, Kuek will have a lot of time to rest as the Dragons' next game will be on December 17 against the Saigon Heat in Ho Chi Minh City. The Slingers, on the other hand, have no time to rest as they'll need to travel to the Philippines and challenge the debuting Alab Pilipinas on Sunday.
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