8:30 p.m. – Malaysia vs Singapore
KUALA LUMPUR – The rivalry between Malaysia and Singapore spills over to the basketball court as the two teams reinforced by Fil-American players begin their best-of-five showdown for the ASEAN Basketball League title tonight at MABA Stadium here.
The Westports Malaysia Dragons, under their longtime Filipino coach Ariel Vanguardia and reinforced by PBA prospects Matthew Wright and Jason Brickman, look to draw first blood on home soil opposite Barako Bull draft pick Kris Rosales and the Singapore Slingers in the series opener set at 8:30 p.m.
Malaysia, which swept the Saigon Heat in the semis, and Singapore, the survivor of the three-game semis with deposed titleholder Hi-Tech Bangkok City, are eyeing their first championship since joining the league in the inaugural season in 2009.
The Dragons are out to rebound from losing in last year’s finals to Hi-Tech while the Slingers try to win the crown in their first finals stint after falling short in the playoffs in previous years.
Regional pride is also at stake in the series as the two neighboring countries are traditional rivals in sports, especially in football.
“There’s a lot of pride at stake because of the Malaysia-Singapore rivalry in sports, but we have to play above that,” said Vanguardia. “I hope we’ve learn our lesson from last year. We were so tight playing our first finals game ever.”
Vanguardia, a many-time PBA assistant and former Jose Rizal University mentor, will have at his disposal the backcourt duo of Wright and Brickman, who have garnered attention from hardcore Pinoy basketball observers for their ABL performances.
Wright, who once played for the Philippine youth team in 2008, and Brickman are two of the reasons for Malaysia’s success with their combination of outside shooting and playmaking skills.
They will be up against a Singapore team that has Rosales, a second round pick of Barako in last year’s PBA draft but failed to secure a roster spot, as its lone Filipino import.
Rosales combined with Singaporean guards Desmond Oh, Wong Wei Long and Qingde Wu to turn the Slingers into a legitimate title contender.
American imports are also expected to step for both teams with Malaysia having Calvin Godfrey and Reginald Johnson and Singapore powered by Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander.