Saigon Heat, the first-ever Vietnamese professional basketball team, have clinched a spot in the semi-finals of the 2014 ASEAN Basketball League for the first time, despite losing their last regular season game on Friday.
The Ho Chi Minh City-based club lost at home 75-100 to Thailand’s HiTech Bangkok City at the CIS Arena in District 7.
The Saigon Heat players were exhausted after a thrilling 75-73 overtime win over the Indonesia Warriors less than 48 hours before their clash with the Thai rivals. The Vietnamese team survived a big late rally from the Warriors to secure their first-ever trip to the ABL playoffs during the game at BritAma Arena, Jakarta, on Wednesday night.
HiTech Bangkok City is one of the strongest teams in the 2014 ABL, with excellent players such as Chris Charles, who scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds during the Saigon Heat clash to lead his team to victory.
After 20 games, Saigon Heat finished fourth at the 2014 regular season with nine wins and 11 losses, and qualified to advance into the semifinals with the other top three teams.
The four teams will compete in the double-elimination playoffs to set up the finale.
The Saigon Heat are scheduled to play their away semifinal on October 29, and the home game on November 2 against Westports Malaysia Dragons.
If the two draw after two games, they will play the tiebreaker on November 5 in Malaysia.
On September 25, Saigon Heat coach Jason Rabedeaux was found dead after an apparent accident at his home in Ho Chi Minh City.
Assistant coach Anthony Garbelotto took over for the deceased boss the following day.
“I’m very proud of our team and we did it for Coach Jason Rabedeaux,” Garbelotto said after the big win against the Indonesia Warriors.
“I knew they’d come back. They are a proud team and all the players have played in big games before. We missed a lot of free throws as well down the stretch. But we dug in and we did it with our defense.”
Beginning on July 16, the 2014 ASEAN Basketball League regular season is the league’s fifth season of competition.