Farmcochem's Ooi Ban Sin (left) drives past Sarawak Fire Horse's Lau Bik Ing during the Malaysian National Basketball League (MNBL) semi-final match.
KUALA LUMPUR: Defending Malaysian National Basketball League (MNBL) champions Farmcochem showed that they still mean business with a robust 77-60 win over Sarawak Fire Horse at the Maba Stadium on Friday.
Farmcochem suffered an unexpected 59-64 defeat to Bintulu Eagles in the final league game at Kota Baru last week.
That loss ensured that the Perak-based team went into the semi-finals as the second ranked team with a 6-2 record, behind Westports Malaysia Dragons who had a 7-1 record.
But Farmcochem, who missed a few key players such as Cameroonian forward Chris Kuete and American centre Lashawn Malloy in Kota Baru, showed that the defeat was nothing more than a minor hiccup.
With a near-full strength squad at their disposal, Farmcochem, with captain Ooi Ban Sin in fiery form, took the lead right from the tip off.
They led 22-14 in the first quarter and upped the pace for a 41-27 halftime lead.
2011 champions Fire Horse were not quite done and came out firing after the break, with shooting guard Ma Chee Kheun scoring consecutive three-pointers as they slashed the lead to just 46-39 at one point.
But Kuete, who was named the regular season Most Valuable Player (MVP), came up big again as Farmcochem eventually ran away with the match.
The 30-year-old Kuete had 28 points and 10 rebounds while Ban Sin pulled in 20 points and 10 rebounds. Towering centre Malloy also saw a big contribution with 12 points and 24 rebounds.
Fire Horse had Chee Kheun with 19 points while Australian forward Goran Veg pulled his weight with 12 points.
The win however fell short of the 30-point mark required to give Farmcochem a direct ticket to the final and the Sarawakians have a chance to turn the tables, provided they win the second leg on Saturday.