Jonathan Sanders took matters into his own hands by netting his sixth double-20 of the season to lift the Videoland Hunters past Bank of Taiwan in a 91-81 win at the Miaoli County Sports Complex on Sunday.
With his team trailing 36-44 at the half, the all-purpose forward from the US rose to the occasion by tearing up the middle of the paint against a weaker bankers' interior defense during the second half to deliver a big comeback victory.
His 30 points and 24 rebounds helped avoid what would have been an embarrassing loss at the hands of the last-placed bankers, losers of 16 in a row, to give the Hunters a new club record for most wins in the regular season with 20.
"It was a huge win for us both in terms of the new record and its being a momentum-builder for the playoffs," coach Liu Chih-wei said after the game.
His troops hold a half-game lead over the Yulon Dinos with two games remaining in the regular season.
Should they run the table this weekend, they will likely face the fourth seed -- the Dacin Tigers or the ETTV Antelopes -- during the preliminary rounds of the playoffs, instead of a tough Taiwan Beer squad or the defending champs, the Yulon Dinos.
The contest began with the bankers looking determined to end their 15-game losing streak by playing a solid first quarter to lead the Hunters 24-16.
After the bankers took a double-digit lead on consecutive 3-pointers by forward Yueh Ying-li early in the second quarter, the Hunters would fight back with Sanders carrying the load on offense to close out the half trailing 36-44.
It took a 17-2 run by the Hunters midway through the third quarter for the league leaders to gain control of the ball game as they finished out the quarter leading 65-58 before wrapping up the win with a sound final quarter.
Failure to get themselves in good rebounding position cost the bankers the game in the second half as they ended the game with 13 fewer rebounds than the Hunters.
Taiwan Beer 76, Dacin Tigers 70
Nearly 10,000 fans packed Miaoli County Sports Complex on Sunday evening to witness the valiant comeback rally by Taiwan Beer as they overcame a 58-53 fourth-quarter deficit to down the Dacin Tigers by a score of 76-70.
The men in the familiar green uniforms almost literally ran the Tigers off the court in the final quarter by exploiting a fatigued Dacin team that was without the service of point guard Su Yi-jeh, who didn't play. Instead, the Tigers were forced to play guards Wang Chih-chuin, who is still recovering from a concussion, and Chang Chih-fong, who played with the flu.
Lee Fong-yong's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave the Tigers an 18-17 lead, which they would add to by a couple to close out a low-scoring first half leading 36-34.
The Tigers' deadly perimeter game gave them a 49-40 advantage midway through the third quarter before Taiwan Beer's Lin Guan-luen came off the bench to chip in seven timely points to keep his team within striking distance, setting the stage for the beer crew's fourth-quarter comeback.
Four different players scored in double-figures for Taiwan Beer, led by Lin "The Beast" Chih-jeh's team-high 18, while only three Tigers managed to break single digits, highlighted by Tien Lei's game-high 23.
Antelopes 84, Eagles 79
The ETTV Antelopes made it look harder than it had to be in their 84-79 win over the Azio Eagles on Sunday to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.
The heavily favored Antelopes took a 21-15 lead after the first quarter, but allowed the Eagles to hang around in a sloppy second quarter that saw the Eagles ring up 26 points as the Antelopes scored 22 to trail by two at the half.
Even though the Antelopes would revert to their potent inside attack featuring big men Delvin "DT" Thomas and Wu Dai-hao to extend their lead by four by the end of the third quarter at 63-57, they could never shake off the resilient Eagles, who actually took a brief 77-75 lead at the 2:34 mark in the fourth quarter before faltering at the end in the eventual loss.
The win by the Antelopes, coupled with a Tigers loss, cut the Tigers' lead over the Antelopes for the final playoff spot to only a half-game.
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