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Dragons inch closer to title

Game Today
(OCBC Arena, Singapore)
4 p.m. – Singapore vs Malaysia

American import Reggie Johnson dominated for 34 points and 13 rebounds as the Westports Malaysia Dragons moved a win shy of capturing their first ASEAN Basketball League crown by beating the host Singapore Slingers, 90-72, Friday night at the OCBC Arena in Singapore.

The 6-foot-10, 307-lb Johnson showed why he won this season’s World Import award as he frustrated the Slingers with a wide array of moves inside the paint particularly in the third period when the Dragons took control for good.

Johnson, who scored the game’s first 12 points before regaining his scoring ways in the third, got ample support from his teammates in the second half as the Dragons beat the Slingers for the second straight time to gain a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

The Dragons, who wasted a double-digit lead in their Game 1 loss before bouncing back with two straight wins, can complete their long chase for the title if they can beat the Slingers anew at 4 p.m. today. Otherwise, the deciding fifth game is set on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

“We got two chances to win this,” said Malaysia’s Filipino coach Ariel Vanguardia, who started out as an assistant in 2011 before being elevated as the head man the following season.

“But the Slingers won’t give up, they won’t quit, they’re well-coached, they have very good team chemistry and I expect them to be back to challenge us. Just like in this game, I think the score didn’t reflect how tough and how we bleeded for every point.”

American reinforcement Calvin Godfrey bucked early foul trouble for 21 points and eight rebounds, igniting a big pullaway with an alley-oop jam off the inbound after Singapore threatened at 69-63 with 5:53 left in the game.

Fil-foreigners Matthew Wright (16 points) and Jason Brickman (nine points, four rebounds and eight assists) also made significant contributions while Malaysians Shee Fai Loh, Ma Chee Kheun and unheralded center Kuek Tian Yuan provided quality minutes for the Dragons.