SINGAPORE — Instead of sulking over the loss, Westports Malaysia Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia chose to focus on the positives after his team's heartbreaking defeat in Game Four of the AirAsia-Asean Basketball League finals.
Vanguardia gave credit to Singapore for its tenacious play which he expected from a team which is fighting for their lives. Game Four ended with Wong Wei Long hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to lift the Slingers to a 75-73 win on Sunday.
“We expected a fight from the Slingers. They fought hard and played very well and we didn’t,” said Vanguardia.
The veteran coach, however, was also happy with the Dragons’ performance in Game Four since they managed to keep in step with the motivated Slingers, who couldn't pull away even with a boisterous crowd behind them.
“The good thing is we didn’t give up the whole game. We were down most of the way, but we kept the game close,” said Vanguardia.
Calvin Godfrey finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, while Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright added 23 points in a losing effort. But the game could have had a favorable ending for the Dragons if not for a missed free throw by Reggie Johnson that only tied the match at 73, setting the stage for Wei Long’s heroics.
As the scene shifts to Kuala Lumpur, Vanguardia said the Dragons will get back to the drawing board as they try to win their first league championship in their home court.
“We have to be smarter the next time especially in the endgame. We had three opportunities to take the lead. But that’s basketball. Wei Long made an unbelievable shot and they defended their home court. They protected it and you have to give them credit,” said the Filipino coach.
Winner-take-all Game Five is set on Saturday at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.