Thursday November 1, 2012
Dragons coach plays down team’s MNBL title chances
By KNG ZHENG GUAN
PETALING JAYA: The Westports Malaysia Dragons are flying high in the Malaysian National Basketball League (MNBL) but head coach Ariel Vanguardia prefers to play down his team’s chances of winning the title.
The Dragons are the only team in the league to have won three of the four matches played so far.
Their only blemish came in the 93-94 loss to unheralded Penang Stallions.
Overall, though, the Dragons have been superb, especially in beating defending champions Sarawak Fire Horse and last year’s runners-up Farmcochem.
What makes their performances even more impressive is that they have largely used local players in all four matches.
Both Filipino imports Moala Tautuaa and Patrick Cabahug were only used sparringly as the likes of youngsters Kwaan Yoong Jing, Kuek Tian Yuen and Loh Shee Fai stepped up to the plate.
The 2.0m-tall Yoong Jing was the most impressive, picking up the Player of the Week award with a total of 41 points and 28 rebounds.
But Vanguardia feels that it’s still early days “as the other teams have not played to their full potential”.
“Right now, I’m happy because we’re right on track with three wins after four matches,” he said.
“But we’re not the top team yet as fatigue has really affected our performances, especially in the last match against Fire Horse.
“We were lucky to win that one (72-71) but, by the end of the match, all my boys were clearly exhausted. Yoong Jing and Shee Fai were simply running on empty ... they couldn’t even jump.
“We’ll get better but I believe the team to beat is still Farmcochem. Their import – Christopher Garnett – can be unstoppable if he wants to play.”
The 32-year-old Garnett is nowhere near his powerful best yet and only managed slightly over 10 points in each of Farmcochem’s three matches so far.
“But I’m happy that our local players have really stepped up when it mattered most and if we keep it up, we should make the semi-finals,” said Vanguardia.
The Dragons will take on home team Stallions when the league moves to Penang tomorrow.
On Saturday, they will be up against Farmcochem before wrapping it up with a match against the Crouching Tigers on Sunday.