Alab Pilipinas freeze Heat as postseason nears



By Harry Hodge
The Saigon Heat were flying high, winners of four of their last five, heading into a big ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Friday night.
Alab Pilipinas brought the Vietnamese squad back to Earth, with a narrow 74-70 victory to improve to 9-6 and seal the season series between the two teams.
The story of the game was the lethal three-ball shooting by Filipino sniper Val Acuna, who led all scorers with 23 points, including seven bombs from beyond the arc. Teammate Sampson Carter contributed 19 points and 2 rebounds. Lenny Daniel led the Heat with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while teammates David Arnold, Moses Morgan and Stefan Nguyen all logged double digits in points.
The Heat’s strategy to stifle Alab stars Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and James Thomas Hughes left Acuna all alone on multiple occasions, and he made the most of his looks. The Heat managed to stay in the game despite numerous turnovers on errant passes, with Daniel banking in a Hail Mary three-ball to close out the first half at the buzzer with Alab leading 38-31.
“When they made their shots, we didn’t answer,” Daniel conceded after the game. “At key times, they made the shots (they needed to).”
One notable update from head coach Tony Garbelotto was that import Jordan Henriquez would remain with the Heat through the remainder of the season, giving Saigon stability at the center position after three other players rotated throughout the position earlier on.
” My two years, I’ve played with seven different five-men,” Daniel said, hoping that the big man’s presence will bring the team success with six games left.
Alab have virtually clinched a spot in the playoffs, while the Heat’s 5-9 record leaves them in the fourth and final position, but remain within striking distance of the Kaohsiung Truth and Westports Malaysia Dragons. The Heat head to Singapore for a mid-week match with the Slingers, and return Saturday to face Malaysia at home.

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Heat edge Alab Pilipinas to sneak into playoff conversation



By Harry Hodge
The Saigon Heat, who limped through the first eight games of the season, have suddenly come to life.
Battling for their lives in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoff picture, the Heat pulled out a gritty performance against Alab Pilipinas with a 78-74 victory Sunday night in Ho Chi Minh City. The win, coupled with losses by rivals Westports Malaysia Dragons and the Kaohsiung Truth, slide the Heat into the fourth playoff position at a record of 5-8.
The Heat are peaking at the right time, winning four of their last five games in dramatic fashion. Heat star Lenny Daniel led all scorers with 24 point and added 15 rebounds, while teammate Jordan Henriquez added his own double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Henriquez has helped the Heat to two wins filling in for the injured Christien Charles, although the Heat may try to find a way to keep him around if Saigon continues winning.
Four players hit double digits for Alab, led by Sampson Carter with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“We always believe in the game plan,” said Swedish-Vietnamese marksman Stefan Nguyen. “We know we can win every game.
“We’ve been playing with urgency the whole season.”
Saigon came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, leading 37-26 at the break. But Alab came alive in the third quarter, with the game tied 53 apiece heading into the fourth. Contributions from David Arnold and Moses Morgan sealed the game, despite some late jitters with an ill-advised three-shot foul by Nguyen on Alab’s Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. with seconds remaining in the game.
The next game should be just as intense, with both teams facing one another this Friday, once again at CIS Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City.

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The passing of my stepdad Jack

My stepfather Jack Gray was a pretty colourful character. Former president of ACTRA and the Writer’s Guild of Canada, despite being born in Detroit. Comfortable writing for MacLean’s Magazine in Canada or screenwriting for the BBC. A leading mind on intellectual property in my home country. Lived in Ibiza before it was overrun with hipsters and DJs. Put my list of “countries visited” to shame.
My mom brought Jack to our house in Ottawa when I was young enough to not really follow what was going on. Next thing I know, he’d moved in! I was 7. They decided to continue their courtship until my early 20s, when they eloped to Santa Fe, New Mexico. All they brought me was a belt!
Jack was much older, old enough that our respective eras sometimes were at odds…. But his calming influence on our household was evident. For a man who had already raised five children, taking on a single mom with two kids (including my brother, who has autism) is no small feat.
Jack took me to my first football game, Ottawa vs Toronto at Lansdowne Park, sometime in 1983. I had no clue what was going on, but he bought me a button with the Argos’ “boat” logo on it. Football was a thread for us; he fished me out of the drunk tank at the police station one Saturday morning and took me direct to football practice. He didn’t lecture me on being a wayward youth; he didn’t need to.
Years later, when I was scraping by in the UK working as a temp in London, Jack took me for maybe the best curry I’ve every enjoyed, in some joint he’d frequented for decades. The wait staff were as venerable as he was!
I don’t want this to be a long read; suffice to say he was a good man, and he lived a long and interesting life. He wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine; he’d drop an “up yours” on me from time to time. But my brother Nat and my mother Sandra are sorting out his passing last night as I write this. The main points are he was peaceful and passed on his own schedule.
He was adamant to not have a funeral, and so I will wait for a time to return to Canada with my wife and children when everyone has had time to process what happened.
I’m not great at conveying my feelings about these things, but we were lucky to have you, Jack. You were a keeper.

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Lions roar to easy victory over hapless Heat




By Harry Hodge

Things were starting to look good for the Saigon Heat after some early season struggles. Then the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions came to visit.
Like a well-oiled machine, the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) newcomers cruised to an easy 97-72 victory in Ho Chi Minh City, ending the Heat’s recent winning streak at two games.
Notable by his absence was former league MVP Christien Charles, a key offseason signing by the Heat who’s a crucial cog when he’s in the lineup. Sadly, that’s only been for three games so far this season as he’s battled injuries, and is now on the team’s three-game injured list as he seeks treatment in the United States.
Former Kansas State star Jordan Henriquez is the fourth player in 11 games to occupy the center position for the Heat, but his first game with the team was a mixed bag. Still he managed to record a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds but also led all players with seven turnovers. Lenny Daniel led all players with 32 points, despite being double- and triple-teamed once the Lions identified him as the Heat’s main threat.
Marcus Elliott, dubbed by Heat coach Tony Garbelotto as the “top closer in the league” showed up big-time, taking the team on his shoulders from the end of the first half onward. Elliott raced coast-to-coast and scored while being fouled with 0.2 seconds left at the end of the first half, a game that was still competitive at the time. But despite being down only 41-38 at halftime, the Heat couldn’t handle all of Hong Kong’s arsenal in the second half.
Elliott finished with 22 points, while three other teammates tallied double-digit point totals, including ABL journeyman Tyler Lamb with 21 points.
“Hong Kong had a game plan and stuck to it,” said Heat forward Moses Morgan after the game. “Tyler (Lamb) played really well, and we didn’t stick together.
“I put it on myself as the voice of the team, (but) hats off to them.”
The loss effectively puts the Kaohsiung Truth in the fourth playoff position for the moment, but there are plenty of games left in the season’s second half. The Heat’s next home game is Sunday, Feb, 26 at CIS Stadium.

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Heat extend winning streak as they top the Truth

By Harry Hodge

It ain’t over yet.

The Saigon Heat have come alive as the season hits the midway point, delivering a crucial 85-76 win at home over the Kaohsiung Truth to keep their hopes for the postseason alive.

The Heat put together a complete game, spurred by a 32-point, 15-rebound performance from Lenny Daniel and a 16-point, 11-rebound effort from Christien Charles.

“We stuck together, even when Kaohsiung came back (at different times),” said starting guard Horace Nguyen. “Our main goal is to get to the playoffs.”

Kaohsiung led early on but the Heat took over by halftime, with a 39-34 lead after scoring 29 points in the second quarter. The Truth’s Chris Oliver had 22 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough in the home stretch.

The Heat have two more home games this month, with the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions coming to town Feb. 18.


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Truth can’t handle the Heat in pre-Tet showdown



By Harry Hodge
The Saigon Heat took down the visiting Kaohsiung Truth, while power forward Lenny Daniel took down the backboard Saturday night.
In an entertaining game that had a bit of everything, spectators left the arena buzzing over Daniel’s thunderous alley-oop dunk that snapped a bar in the backboard apparatus and delayed the game’s conclusion as it was repaired. But really, the game had been decided before the fourth quarter, with the Heat coasting to a crucial 99-85 victory.
Crucial to not only keep the Heat’s playoff aspirations alive by moving them into a tie with the Truth, but also to give the squad a shot in the arm confidence-wise following a winless 0-4 start to the season with Vietnam’s Tet holidays set to start in the coming days.
“The fan keep coming out and supporting us, the least I could do is give them a treat,” Daniel said.
Daniel finished with 28 points, but the night belonged to heritage player Josh Munzon, who hada career night with 34 points and six steals, scuttling the Truth’s offensive schemes time and again.
“I was feeling it,” Munzon said. “I wanted to play aggressively on offence and defence.”
Kaohsiung’s Chris Oliver finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, with matching totals by teammate Derek Hall with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
The Heat enjoyed a double-digit advantage at halftime 53-43 and managed to fend off rallies by the Truth in the second half. Domestic players like Nguyen Thanh Nhan and Nguyen Van Hung got on the board as well. Vietnamese-American stalwart David Arnold finished with 19 points and made his mark as a playmaker throughout the contest.
The two teams will face one another again on the same home court at CIS Stadium in early February.

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So was 2016 good or bad?


Scenes from Bac Ninh and Hanoi

By Harry Hodge

Plenty of hand-wringing has taken place about 2016 being the worst ever… but most of these things that took place actually had little effect on my day-to-day life, to be honest. My motorbike crash in January had much more impact 😉 than any of those events. Having your pregnant wife come collect you with your lip split open, a cracked tooth and your front covered in blood and dirt winds up being a much more pivotal moment.

I remember in my (likely-concussed) state thinking “good the crash didn’t kill me.” I have bigger things to think about now. David Bowie dying is tragic, don’t get me wrong. Tons of other well-known people also died. Brexit happened. (Although it hasn’t yet, really). Trump won (although he hasn’t taken office yet).


It could have been much worse.


In truth, last year was pretty good for me and my family overall. We moved into our new condo in time to welcome our son Payton to the world. Happy and healthy and big (4.23 kg) so what do I have to complain about? Negotiating for a new tooth and getting 20 stitches in my face is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like I was gonna get any uglier from something like that!

Also, lots of other happy things took place that I’m happy to be associated with. Our in-laws Mike and Lam welcomed their daughter Sheena in Orlando last week, so Payton and Avery have a new cousin. My’s family is beyond happy to welcome the new addition. We attended the wedding of our friends Scott and Nhai. Our kids got to meet the family up in Bac Ninh (although that trip was exhausting and not exactly fun). These have more substance to me then elections in countries I’m not a citizen of or the deaths of people I didn’t personally know (despite the tragedy of it all).

I think what I’ve taken away from the year is probably a lesson in risk management. I had a dust-up with a fellow motorist in September, but even that I turned into an anecdotal article.

Still, I don’t advise picking fights in Saigon traffic. This city can be exhausting enough on its own without adding to your stress. Work has also been much more consuming this year than any I can remember, between launching books I co-authored around my adopted country, calling basketball games for the Heat, taking on more MC duties. Life really isn’t so bad.

I was saddened right around Christmas to learn that my stepdad Jack is not well, and how this affects my mother and brother in Port Hope. I know there are plenty of people they can turn to, but being so far away is difficult. I could see the joy in my mom’s face when she saw her grandchildren via Skype on Christmas Eve (before it got all virus-ed up on my work computer).

The morale? It’s pointless to let things that really don’t register in your own life become a reason to bring you down. The people around you need you a lot more than a celebrity with millions of followers — although saying it sucks that they’re gone doesn’t make you a bad person either. After all the dumb stuff I did in 2016, I still managed to get through it… Things aren’t going to necessarily slow down next year, but I can certainly find some ways to cut out complications!

I hope everyone enjoys themselves this weekend, I truly believe big things await us all in 2017!

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