FILIPINO coach Ariel Vanguardia predicts a tight series in the upcoming Asean Basketball League (ABL) finals between his Westports Malaysia Dragons team and the Singapore Slingers beginning on Friday in Kuala Lumpur.
Vanguardia, who has coached the Dragons since it joined the league, expects the intensity to be higher as he believes the rivalry between the neighboring nations in sports will spill over to the ABL finals.
“The Malaysia-Singapore rivalry in sports is like Ateneo-La Salle,” said Vanguardia, finding a suitable comparison to the Philippine sports setting. “A lot of pride is at stake.”
Malaysia and Singapore had similar 16-4 win-loss records at the end of the eliminations but the Dragons took the top spot in the best-of-three semifinals. The Dragons swept the fourth-seed Saigon Heat while the Slingers needed to win the last two matches to dethrone last year’s champion Hi-Tech Bangkok City.
In their season series, the Slingers beat the Dragons in their first match last November 13, 88-85, at Singapore’s OCBC Arena, before the Dragons avenged their loss, 84-79, two days later at the MABA Stadium.
Both teams have also won against each other on the road with Singapore winning last December 19, 78-71, and Malaysia claiming their fourth and final match-up of the regular season, 89-80, on Valentines Day.
“We split our regular season games with the Slingers so it’s really evenly matched,” said Vanguardia.
The Dragons will be spearheaded by Fil-Americans Jason Brickman and Matthew Wright while the Slingers have a Fil-Am of their own in Kris Rosales, who had played in the PBA D-League.