Hong Kong Eastern get one hand on the 2023 ABL Invitational trophy as they beat the Saigon
Heat in Game 1, 89-73.
The Heat were relatively fresh on their feet after wrapping up their intense Semi-Finals series
less than 48 hours ago. This was possibly why they could start the game on a good footing,
going up ahead by as much as 9 points in the first half of the game.
Eastern, who were three days removed from action, didn’t allow the home team to build up the
lead up to double-digits and battled their way back to even lead at the halftime break.
With the pressure piling on both teams, the score remained close for over a 10-minute stretch
from late in the second quarter to early in the third quarter.
At the 4:11 mark of the third quarter, Semi-Finals hero Evan Gilyard dropped a three-pointer
that regained the lead for the Saigon Heat as the lead changed for the 11 th time in the game.
The fans roared as they had through Gilyard’s big-time shots in the previous game, but little did
they know that would be the last time the team would control the lead in this game.
For the next 6 minutes of the game, the Heat were unable to score a point on Eastern, missing 6
field goals and turning the ball over 3 times in that scoreless stretch. The Hong Kong club
proceeded to score 18 straight points on their end for their biggest run of the game which
heavily swung the momentum their way.
O’Darien Bassett led the charge for Eastern with an efficient game of 22 points, 5 rebounds, and
4 assists on only 13 shot attempts with 4 three-pointers made. Dominic Gilbert was also
productive as he notched another double-double of 24 point and 10 rebounds, while also
dishing out 5 assists, a steal, and a block.
However, one might also bring up Oliver Xu as the main catalyst for the win as he came off the
bench full of energy to finish the game with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
For the Heat, Gilyard was able to reach the 20-point mark once again, though it took him 15
attempts and he was forced into committing 5 turnovers. It was Hasan Thomas (11 points, 11
rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks) and Nguyen Huynh Phu Vinh (3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3
blocks) that kept the Heat alive, especially on the defensive end.
There will not be a lot of turnaround time for the Saigon Heat to regroup as Game 2 will be
played on Sunday, March 12 at 5:00 PM (GMT +7). Eastern are obviously looking to seal the
deal for their second championship in ABL competitions in Game 2, but in the case that they
don’t, Game 3 will be played on Tuesday, March 14.