Play resumed in the SBL following a three week Lunar New Year break, with the Yulon Luxgens taming the Dacin Tigers 83-71 and Kinmen Liquor edging past the Taiwan Mobile Leopards in a 95-94 decision at the Hsinchu Municipal Gymnasium on Saturday.
Yulon’s exceptional bench depth made the difference, with veteran center Wu Chih-wei taking over for a foul-troubled Tseng Wen-ding to score seven straight points in the closing minutes and deal the Tigers their first loss of the season.
Also starring for the Luxgens was point guard Chen Chih-chung who netted a team-high 17 points in 38-plus minutes of play to make up for the absence of top scorer Chen “Airman” Hsin-an (out for at least two more weeks to nurse an injured knee).
The contest began with the Luxgens taking a modest 20-16 lead after the opening quarter before the cats fought back — with team icon Tien Lei’s nailing a trio of three-pointers — to grab a 39-37 lead at the half.
Neither squad managed to take leads larger than three through the early part of the second half, with Dacin going with its perimeter game while Yulon opted to punch the ball inside in several strong drives to the hoop by Chen.
Dacin’s inability to hit the jumpers allowed Yulon to pull six points ahead midway through the final quarter, a lead they would not relinquish despite a tenacious rally by the Tigers.
Newly acquired center Byron Allen of the US made his presence felt against the inside attack of the Luxgens by keeping Tseng in check, but it was not enough for the Tigers to defeat the three-time champs as they felt short for the fifth time in the last six games versus Yulon.
KINMEN LIQUOR 95, LEOPARDS 94
Failure to secure the defensive glass led to 21 offensive rebounds by Kinmen Liquor, which coupled with a crucial turnover by Luo “the Natural” Hsin-liang on their final possession cost the Taiwan Mobile Leopards the game as they dropped a heartbreaker in a 95-94 final on Saturday night.
Trailing by one with less than 15 seconds remaining, the Leopards held their ground on defense to put themselves in position to win it with one final offensive possession.
But veteran guard Luo squandered the opportunity by turning the ball over on the ensuing drive to the hoop — all but gift-wrapping the victory for Kinmen Liquor.
Kinmen Liquor, sporting new gray uniforms, nearly gave the game away, with Lin Guan-luen missing four straight free throws late in the game. But the Leopards were equally self-destructive as they allowed Kinmen Liquor several put-back buckets off the offensive glass to erase a five-point deficit and come away with the big “W.”