Cambodia’s SEA Games bound basketball players defeated a side from Ho Chi Minh City 95-81 in a second friendly fixture on Saturday at the indoor hall of Olympic Stadium after losing the first game 74-71 the previous day.
The national team led all the way, turning a 28-24 first quarter advantage into a 54-50 half time lead. The third quarter ended 78-57 but the home side, looking good to hit the century mark at 95-75 with 2:30 left on the clock, got stuck in their own zone and allowed the visitors three quick baskets that whittled the lead down to 95-81 at the hooter.
“These friendlies were not about points. They were warm ups for our prime target, the SEA Games,” Cambodia coach Austin Koledoye told the Post after the match.
“They were all about how well the team blended together with our new foreign recruits joining in. I must say that I am more than happy with what I saw.”
The Nigerian tactician admitted that their first game on Friday came too soon for their recently arrived foreign-based contingent to be effective. “They reached the city just a couple of days ago and clearly needed time to recover.
“Pek Mith and Ouen Sopoeun had travelled all the way from California and Thach Boroth flew in from Sweden. They were still jet lagged and exhausted. They needed time to settle down. Today they came into their own,” said Koledoye.
The coach said the weekend games were “just a beginning” for his imported players, adding that he expected them to help the team to further triumphs once they had settled down. “I am waiting for my points guard [Stefan Doll-Therro Sao] from Austria. When he joins our strategy would be different.”
In quick time, Thach Boroth began to assert himself as a pivot controlling the traffic and keeping the feeds going, apart from dominating rebounds under the board. While Ouen Sopoeun caught the eye with his speed and some scintillating three pointers, Pek Mith with his left handed shooting and drive ins led the home team offence.
“I am getting there. It was very tough on Friday. It was much better today,” Ouen Sopoeun told the Post on Saturday. “The feel is good. Maybe I have an issue with communication on the court. I can understand Khmer but can’t speak. But we can sort these things out.”
Pek Mith, meanwhile, said he knew it would be tough in the early stages. “As we go along, I feel we will do better,” he said.
“It was exhausting work,” added Thach Boroth. “I did everything everywhere and I was pleased with the way it turned out. I am confident it will keep getting better once we play a lot more together. I am looking forward to the new points guard. When he is there to take control, we can do a lot of other things differently.”
Monh Putratana was the pick amongst the home grown talents, coming up with a couple of amazing baskets from downtown in the third quarter.
The national team left for China yesterday to take part in a six-nation mini-tournament that serves as an ideal trial run before pitching in for SEA Games honours in Indonesia next month.