As the Singapore Slingers notch another victory in the first day of the Vietnam Circuit in the
2023 ABL Invitational, another spot in the Playoffs gets picked up by the Saigon Heat in their
win in front of the home crowd.
As the fans flocked to the stands for their first taste of ABL competition in years in Ho Chi Minh
City at the Nguyen Du Stadium, the Slingers easily took care of business against the Bangkok
The Slingers took no chances as they get one step closer to Playoff qualification, taking the lead
early on, and from there, they never looked back. The lead hovered just below 20 points
through the first half and exploded up to almost 40 points in the third quarter alone as the
Singapore squad outscored the team from Thailand 40-14.
All five starters for the Slingers scored in double-digits while Tay Ding Loon (10 points) and
Kelvin Lim (12 points) also put in a sizable contribution from the bench. Kentrell Barkley
continued to put on MVP-conversation-worth performances with a game-high 32 points in this
game to go with 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Team veteran Xavier Alexander also came close to a
triple-double with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. CJ Gettys took care of the paint with 25
points, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Both starting locals, Jackson Mah (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Delvin Goh (13 points, 7
rebounds), produced at the ideal rate that coach Neo Beng Siang would expect for the team to
make a deep playoff run.
The Tigers, who are already confirmed out of Playoff contention, were led by William Freeman
(24 points) and Jose Nouchanthavong (19 points).
The day’s second game brought further entertainment to the home fans at Nguyen Du stadium
as they watched their beloved Saigon Heat defeat the Macau Black Beats, 79-70.
The win clinches a spot in the Playoffs for the Saigon Heat, making them the second team to do
so after NS Matrix Malaysia. Not only that, the Black Bears are now also unable to
mathematically qualify for the Playoffs after suffering the loss and the Slingers winning the
The Heat came out firing all cylinders, outscoring the Black Bears 27-9 in the first quarter. They
maintained that lead throughout the game, but the Black Bears never rolled over and gave up,
as evident in their last interval effort.
The home team received contributions from nearly the entire roster as all twelve players saw
action on the floor with ten scoring at least one point. Jarius Holder led the way, who had 22
points in just 27 minutes of play. The other big-time player was Jeremy Combs who had 14
points on 6-8 shooting from the field to go with 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
For the Macau Black Bears, Isaiah Wade seemed unwell when he left the floor in the third
quarter and never came back. Wade, who has been the Black Bears’ leading scorer and
rebounder in this competition, managed only 4 points with 11 rebounds in this game.
The Black Bears dealt with injuries right from the very first game of the season when they had
to replace Winston Shepard with Deangelo Hamilton and could very well have to deal with it
down this last stretch.
Without Wade, the sharpshooters for the Black Bears stepped up. Jenning Leung had 21 points,
Dequan Abrom had 17 points, and Lao Chon Pong finished with 15. Unfortunately, it was not
enough to keep their Playoff hopes alive.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Black Bears as well, as they will go immediately back into
action on Monday 13 February to face NS Matrix Malaysia who are on a nine-game winning
streak. Even if the Black Bears are out of the running, they might want to put in their best
efforts to leave a lasting impression in Vietnam.
The Bangkok Tigers’ next game will also be against NS Matrix Malaysia on Tuesday 14 February.
Again, the Tigers are also out of Playoff contention, but it could be a good opportunity for them
to show the region what they’ve got against one of the top contending teams.
Both the Heat and the Slingers will take two days off before facing each other on Wednesday 15
February in a potential Playoffs matchup.