The underdogs had a huge day on Saturday, winning two of the three Super Basketball League games in convincing fashion, starting with the Dacin Tigers' 93-73 thrashing of the favored Videoland Hunters at the Miaoli County Sports Complex.
Point guard Wang Chih-chuin returned to action from a concussion by coming off the Dacin bench to grab 11 points and two assists to jump-start a previously slumping Tiger pack to a blowout win.
Tien Lei and Chang Chih-fong, the Tigers' reliable scoring tandem, also poured in 22 and 20 points to help spur their team on to a big victory.
PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES
The game began as the Tigers came out firing. In the opening quarter, Tien and Chang combined for with 22 points, most of them coming on outside shots.
The Tigers then turned their attention to shutting down the Hunters offense with double-team coverage on the inside for a surprising 44-32 lead at the half.
Even though the Hunters would fight back with a 12-2 run in early in the third quarter that brought them to within two of the feisty cats, that was as close as they would get as Dacin quickly responded with four 3-pointers of their own in the latter part of the third to close out the quarter with a commanding 67-49 advantage.
The Tigers lead never fell to less than a dozen the rest of the way, despite coach Liu Jia-fa's early replacement of the starters in the fourth quarter, running away with the huge win that virtually clinched the fourth-and-final spot in the upcoming playoffs.
"We worked on containing [Jonathan] Sanders and Lee Chi-yi a lot during the week and it paid large dividends," a very excited Liu said after the game.
His team is one win or an ETTV Antelopes' loss shy from clinching a postseason birth.
As for the Hunters, winners of their previous seven games, off nights by Sanders and shooting guard Yang Tseh-yi were the main reasons they missed a golden opportunity to take sole possession of the top spot in the standings.
They remain tied for first with the Yulon Dinos with identical 19-8 records.
Antelopes 85, Dinos 64
The ETTV Antelopes kept their postseason hopes alive with an 85-64 trouncing of the Yulon Dinos in Miaoli on Saturday evening, thanks to a great effort inside the paint from frontcourt trio Delvin "DT" Thomas, Wu Dai-hao, and O'Yang Jing-heng.
O'Yang came off the Antelopes bench with a game-high, 20-point outing to go along with Thomas and Wu's 32 combined points to lead the Antelopes to the much-needed victory.
The contest started with both squads playing sloppily in an error-filled first quarter.
The first frame ended with the Antelopes leading by two (18-16) before they made the necessary adjustments on both ends of the floor to pad their lead by five for a 39-32 cushion at the half.
Needing the win in order to stay in contention with the Tigers for the final ticket into the playoffs, the Antelopes showed no signs of a letdown in the second half as they continued to pound the ball inside the paint against the Dinos interior defense, ultimately outmuscling and outhustling the defending champs by a sizable margin in the end.
"We flat-out stunk up the place tonight," Dinos coach Lee Yun-kuan said after the game, referring to his troops' sluggish play against an obviously hungrier Antelopes squad.
Eagles 96, Bank of Taiwan 87
The Azio Eagles overcame an eight-point third-quarter deficit by rallying for 27 fourth-quarter points to defeat the Bank of Taiwan 96-87 for their fifth win of the season.
The battle to stay out of the cellar went the Eagles' way as they outplayed the slumping bankers, losers of 15 straight, in the decisive fourth quarter on the strength of Chen Shih-jeh's fine play.
The reserve guard continued his recent scoring surge by netting 20 or more points for the third straight game with 27.
As in many of their 15 previous losses, the bankers actually had several excellent chances to put their opponents away after taking sizable leads in the second half.
But failure to sustain their level of intensity throughout the entire game ultimately resulted in yet another bitter loss.
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