The Hualien Probation Basketball Invitational Tournament kicked off in grand style earlier this week with YMY of the Super Basketball League (SBL) winning 101-98 over Team Philippines at the Hualien County Sports Arena in Hualien on Wednesday.
This year's competition features all seven squads from Taiwan's semi-professional basketball league, the SBL, and foreign teams from the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
The 10 teams are divided into two groups which will compete in a round-robin, first round of play, with the winner from each group advancing onto tomorrow's championship game.
The second-place finisher in the first round from each group will play each other for the overall third-place finish with the third, fourth, and fifth-place finishers playing their counterparts from the other group to determine the final standings for the tournament.
Taiwan Beer is the early favorite in Group A, along with the ETTV Antelopes, YMY, Team Philippines and South Korea, while the Osaka Evessa of Japan heads a Group B that includes the three-time SBL champs that Yulon Dinos, Dacin Tigers, Bank of Taiwan, and the Videoland Hunters.
In addition to YMY's thrilling victory over the Filipinos in the opener, the Osaka Evessa had little trouble against the Hunters in a 103-88 final on Wednesday behind solid efforts from American trio Jeff Newton, Matt Lottich, and Lynn Washington.
As for South Korea, the lineup from the Kyong Hee University took a sizable ten-point lead against the Antelopes after the first quarter and managed to hold on for the 81-71 win, getting a combined 40-point output from big men Kim Min-soo and Woo Seung-youn.
Wednesday night's prime-time matchup between the Dinos and the Tigers had the Dinos getting their way as the shorthanded cats (without three of their top scorers, Tien Lei, Lee Fong-yong and Chang Chih-fong due to injuries) proved no match against the defending SBL champs in a 102-87 decision.
All eyes were on a well-rested Dinos icon Chen "Airman" Hsin-an, who missed the entire last season because of a contract dispute, as he racked up a team-high 27 points against the Tigers in his first game in over a year wearing a Dinos uniform.
The final contest on Wednesday night had Taiwan Beer cruising past the Filipinos 87-77 in their second game of the day, where shooting guard Lin Guan-luen drained six three-pointers on a 24-point night to help set the crew from the Philippines back by two games in a 0-2 start. Top scoring threat Lin "The Beast" Chih-jeh did not dress for the game as he continued to rest an injured ankle that took a serious beating during the SBL postseason a month ago.
The favorites all won as expected in Thursday's action with Taiwan Beer, making it two wins in a row after barely edging past YMY 98-97.
Guard Lee Wei-min's clutch free throw with under six seconds remaining in the game broke a 97-all tie as the beermen got a huge scare from YMY in what would have been an embarrassing loss.
The Tigers bounced back nicely from the loss to the Dinos with a 96-90 win over the bankers on Thursday, while the Dinos trounced the Hunters 90-61 in a game that was well over by the first intermission to remain unbeaten at 2-0.
Team Philippines finally got on the winning track with a narrow 89-86 triumph over the Antelopes on Thursday before the South Koreans rounded out the night by topping YMY 104-83 in a tremendous display of offensive skills.