2019 MPL D League Finals Game 2 Recap
Isn’t the Finals a funny thing? We could have sworn the KL Dragons were well on their way to clinching the MPL Development League (D-League) title after a dominating performance in Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Friday.
But the Red Baron Youth had other ideas in their mind as they not only refused to go down, they delivered one of their best showing this season to nail a sensational 84-73 win over the Dragons in Game 2.
It is a win well worth taking note of as Red Baron has wiped out the Dragons’ clean slate, dealing them their first defeat of the season.
And more importantly, it is a huge momentum swing for Red Baron as they keep their own title hopes very much alive as the series now heads into a deciding Game 3.
Aggressive start paid dividends
After letting Low Meng Lek run the show and Wee Yong Gan to shoot effortlessly in Game 1, Red Baron knew just what they had to do in Game 2.
Ng Zhen Yu was tasked with putting the lock on Yong Gan while Meng Lek could hardly find space to operate as he was systematically crowded out by Red Baron defenders at all turns.
The aggressive approach in defence also transitioned well into attack as Red Baron were more confident going forward while the Dragons were hitting their shots only patches.
The direct approach also threw the Dragons’ defence off their game as Red Baron connected with four outside shots courtesy of one basket each from Keng Eng Hong, Lee Jia Jun, Leong Ye Xuan and Diong Jun Yuen.
To further complicate matters, Zhen Yu’s defence on Yong Gan was working to perfection as the league’s top scorer only played six minutes and released just two off target shots in the first period as Red Baron took a comfortable 23-13 lead.
The second quarter went off in similar fashion as the Dragons played arguably one of their worst in offence this season.
And Red Baron took full advantage as they started to pick up steam and built up a healthy lead.
Centre Yap Zhi Wei was very much in the thick of things as he exploded for 10 points in the second quarter.
It is the 19-year-old’s best showing so far after disappearing in Game 1 and he finally looked like he was living up to expectations after being named in the D-League’s Best Five for the season.
Dragons snapped back to life in the third
Despite trailing 29-42 at halftime, there’s always the feeling that the Dragons will come back stronger in the second half.
It took a while for them to reset and get going and Red Baron initially looked like they were going to run away with the win after building up a 17 point lead.
It was a fresh face – Poh Chee Hoa, who didn’t play at all in the first half, who did most of the damage as he came off the bench to sink 10 points.
But Red Baron were just unable to close the deal as the Dragons kept themselves in the game thanks to a huge effort from Chiang Wei Er.
The forward was willing his team to win and was doing it all, grabbing rebounds and hitting a high of 15 points in the third period as the Dragons found themselves just 7 points behind at 55-62 heading into the fourth quarter.
The major concern however was Yong Gan going 0-5 from the field and was still scoreless after three periods.
Braving the storm in the fourth
60-62 within three minutes of the final quarter.
The pressure was certainly on Red Baron as the Dragons were pressing high and were looking to make the stops.
But instead crumbling in the face of the relentless Dragons, Red Baron once again stepped up when it mattered most.
After playing excellent defence the whole game, Zhen Yu showed his attacking instinct as he combined with backcourt partner Jia Jun to keep Red Baron in the lead.
The Dragons kept pushing but Red Baron were not slipping up and Jia Jun came up with an ice cold dagger three pointer at 1:56 on the clock to put his team 80-69 ahead.
That pretty much put the game beyond the Dragons’ reach and try as the might, they just couldn’t overcome the deficit.
There was even time for Chan Yew Thung to wrap things up with yet another three pointer and a free throw to complete a superb win.
Jia Jun who was the livewire for Red Baron, finished with 20 points off 3-5 from three point range while Zhi Wei’s early spurt had him on 14 points.
Chee Hoa and Yew Thung were the others with double digits, both finishing with 10 points each while centre Ng Cheng Toong had a commanding performance protecting the rim with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.
For the Dragons, Wei Er had an explosive scoring day with 37 points off 6-10 from three point range while John Wong tallied 11 markers.
There was however insufficient contributions from the rest with Yong Gan the biggest culprit, finishing with only 4 points – his worst showing this season.
The Finals now go on to the deciding Game 3 on Sunday where it is a winner-takes-all match.
Player of the Game: Lee Jia Jun (20 points, 4 rebounds)
Defence mastery: The stats don’t show it but Ng Zhen Yu put up a top class defensive show in shackling Wee Yong Gan. He even had the audacity to drop Yong Gan on one play with a sweet ankle breaker.
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