With the regular season title on the line, the Yulon Dinos overcame a seven-point, late-game deficit to top the Videoland Hunters in an 116-111 triple-overtime thriller for their fourth consecutive regular season crown at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan on Sunday evening.
Chen "Airman" Hsin-an proved his uncanny "Mr. Fourth-Quarter" distinction for the second straight night with 14 of the Dinos' 22 points in the final quarter to force the game into overtime before eventually clinching it for the defending champs.
Behind a season-high 43 points and 24 rebounds by all-purpose forward Jonathan Sanders, the Hunters played the defending champs fairly evenly through the first three quarters, keeping the deficit to under 10 points against the Dinos for the most part before erupting for 19 points in a 19-5 run midway through the fourth to take leads as large as ten points.
But with the Airman turning his game up in the final quarter, even the Sanders-led Hunters were unsuccessful in protecting the hard-earned lead as they dropped the season finale to settle for second place.
Unable to hit their perimeter jumpers throughout the game, the Dinos resorted to the inside attack of big man Tseng Wen-ding, whose new career-high of 48 points accounted for the bulk of the scoring for the Dinos.
His outstanding defense against the Sanders, especially during last quarter and the first two overtime sessions, also helped alter Sanders' shots as the Hunters top scorer missed several critical shots in the losing cause.
"I can't believe it would go down to the wire like this, two teams, both unwilling to go down easily," Chen said after the game.
Waiting for the Dinos in their first-round postseason action this Friday at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium will be the fourth-seeded Dacin Tigers, who qualified for the final playoff spot with a miraculous come-from-behind win over the ETTV Antelopes in Tainan last Friday.
As for the Hunters, the streaky fivesome from Taiwan Beer will be on their schedule in the other first-round matchup, where the winners will take on the victors of the Dinos-Tigers series for the right to compete in the SBL Finals.
Tigers 77, Bank of Taiwan 63
Playing their reserves in the interest of resting their starters and not risking any more injuries, the Dacin Tigers cruised past the Bank of Taiwan in a 77-63 win to end the regular season on a high note.
The loss by the bankers was their 19th in a row, setting a new mark for the longest losing skid, as they end the year with a league-worst 4-26 record.
Eagles 95, Taiwan Beer 78
Taking advantage of a Taiwan Beer crew that was resting its starters after they lost their chance of the regular season title with a tough loss to the Dinos on Saturday, the Azio Eagles scored a 95-78 upset win on Sunday afternoon to close out the year strong.
Only one regular started for Taiwan Beer as coach Yen Jia-hua decided to give his bench some playing time as they prepare to take on the Hunters in a highly anticipated first-round series this coming weekend.