Close plays dominated the action around the league yesterday with the winners topping their opponents by a combined total of six points in the three games on the last day of 2011.
Sixteen fourth-quarter points by Yang Jing-min helped the defending champs from Taiwan Beer erase a four-point second-half deficit to top Pure Youth Construction 93-91 in the first game at the Hsinchu County Sports Complex yesterday.
The veteran forward scored a total of 27 points to prevent the Brew Crew from opening the season with a 1-3 mark, instead leaving them with a 2-2 record as they head into the new year.
Led by a highly motivated Chen “Airman” Hsin-an, whose first two weeks in a Pure Youth uniform were anything but memorable, the Builders came out firing with Chen and hired gun Quincy Davis netting seven points apiece to put their team ahead 24-20 in a high-scoring first quarter.
However, Taiwan Beer regained their winning form and an evenly fought second quarter saw them hold the deficit to four by the end of the first half.
After another hard-fought third that saw neither team gaining any advantages, the scale finally tipped in favor of the defending champs as Yang sank a crucial three-pointer with less than eight minutes remaining to rally his team past Pure Youth.
Newly arrived Emmanuel Jones, who returned for a second season with Taiwan Beer, made his presence felt right away with a team-high 28 points to put a big smile on skipper Yen Jia-hua’s face.
Jones was let go by the Brew Crew prior to the start of the season because of his smaller stature, but was brought back in favor of a foursome of foreign hands who failed to impress Yen.
TIGERS 82, LEOPARDS 79
Tien Lei also made his presence felt on his return from a knee injury with a half-dozen assists on a 13-point night to propel the Dacin Tigers past the Taiwan Mobile Leopards in the second game in Hsinchu yesterday.
The two-week layover did not seem to bother the three-time league MVP following an injury to his left knee on the opening weekend as he played nearly 33 minutes to lead the Big Cats to their fifth straight win.
Also starring was last week’s Player-of-the-Week winner Chang “Mr Hustle” Chih-fong, who racked up 22 points to lead his team in scoring for three straight contests.
Trailing by as many as 10 points early in the fourth quarter, the Leopards managed to go on an 8-0 run that made things interesting in the final quarter.
However, Chang and company made sure there would be no upset on New Year’s Eve as he calmly connected on several clutch buckets to seal the win late in the game.
LUXGENS 77, KINMEN LIQUOR 76
Kinmen Liquor nearly pulled off the impossible by rallying from as many as dozen down in the fourth quarter to lose by one against the Yulon Luxgens in the final game last night.
A tough miss by Hong Chi-chao on a free throw attempt following a foul on a made shot would have given the Distiller a chance to force a tie, but that was not the case as the Luxgens held on tooth-and-nail to collect win No. 5 in the young season.