Cagers a long way off

New Straits Times - - Sport -

THERE re­mains a lot of work to do if Malaysia are to chal­lenge for a podium fin­ish at the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games in Au­gust go­ing by the na­tional team’s per­for­mance at the South­east Asian Basketball Cham­pi­onship in Manila.

With only to­day’s game against win­less Myan­mar left to play, Malaysia are set to fin­ish fourth in the seven-team tour­na­ment af­ter tak­ing sil­ver in the 2015 edi­tion.

How­ever, the per­for­mances must be seen in the right con­text since the na­tional team are ef­fec­tively rep­re­sented by sec­ond­stringers in Manila af­ter coach Goh Cheng Huat left as many as six seniors at home to run the rule over those fight­ing to make it into the Sea Games squad.

Af­ter an en­cour­ag­ing win over Sin­ga­pore to end a three-match los­ing start in the tour­na­ment, Malaysia strug­gled to edge Viet­nam, not known for their basketball prow­ess, by a sin­gle point in over­time on Tues­day.

“I’m not very sat­is­fied with the of­fence but on de­fence we were not bad though there is still a lot of room to im­prove,” Cheng Huat told Time­s­port yes­ter­day in as­sess­ing his team.

“The of­fence has been very in­con­sis­tent and not phys­i­cal and ag­gres­sive enough. Yes­ter­day’s game (against Viet­nam) was my fault be­cause I thought they wouldn’t un­der­es­ti­mate Viet­nam.

“It turned out that we were to­tally un­pre­pared to play and luck­ily, we man­aged to win in over­time.”

There have been some good dis­plays with the Malaysia Drag­ons’ Ting Chun Hong scor­ing 28 points against Viet­nam for the sec­ond high­est in­di­vid­ual score for the tour­na­ment, which boosted his av­er­age to 15.2 points per game.

Cheng Huat also named vet­eran Chan Kek Thai, Heng Yee Tong, Teo Kok Hou and Liaw Chee Huei as those who have per­formed rea­son­ably well.

“Look­ing at the sta­tis­tics, these are the play­ers who have done well but they are still not able to han­dle cru­cial sit­u­a­tions,” he said.

Cheng Huat will get a chance to in­te­grate the se­nior play­ers left be­hind at an in­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment in Kuala Lumpur next month.

Prior to leav­ing for Manila, Cheng Huat said he hoped to achieve more than the bronze medal tar­get set by the Malaysian Basketball As­so­ci­a­tion.

How­ever, even mak­ing the podium would be an achieve­ment for the men’s team who have not won a medal since tak­ing bronze in Ko­rat in 2007. Devin­der Singh

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