Overcoming a slow start in the first quarter with an explosive second half, Pure Youth Construction easily cruised past the Dacin Tigers in an 88-71 final at the Sinjhuang Sports Complex in New Taipei City last night to take Game 1 of the Super Basketball League (SBL) Championship Finals.
Chen Shih-jeh and Quincy Davis had a field day against the Dacin defense as they combined for 45 points on the night, mostly from inside the paint, with the former penetrating the Dacin interior defense at will and the latter gaining great inside position for several easy slams to lift the Builders past the Cats.
Making their first-ever appearance in the finals, the Builders showed some big-game jitters with a sub-par first quarter in which they committed five turnovers to find themselves trailing the Cats by six in a 20-14 game.
However, they would more than make up for the difference with a sound second quarter behind the strong play of Chen, whose 12 points in the quarter sparked a 29-point burst that put his team ahead 43-38 at the half.
Pure Youth increased their lead to 11 in the third quarter, despite a 6-0 run by the Tigers that brought them to within three of the Builders at one point.
That was all the Tigers could handle as the Builders maintained a double-digit advantage for a good part of the fourth quarter before they simply piled on the points over the final three minutes to claim the all-important series opener.
Four three-pointers by the Tigers in the third kept them in the game early in the second half, but the pressure and the high intensity of the Builders, whose bench was five men deep, eventually caught up with the Tigers as they simply ran out of gas over the final 12 minutes to fall far short in the end.
Four different players scored 14 or more points in the game, with Chen’s 24 leading the way. Tsai Wen-cheng also came off the bench for skipper Hsu Jin-tseh with an immaculate 17-point effort to give the starters some much-needed rest.
As for the Tigers, Noel Felix’s 19-point outing led a fatigued squad who only had three days of rest since Tuesday night’s narrow Game 7 win over Taiwan Beer, compared with the 10 days of down time that Pure Youth enjoyed.
The two teams will suit up for Game 2 this evening with the tipoff scheduled for 6pm in Sinjhuang.
It is a must-win situation for the Tigers, since no teams have ever rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a title in league history.
A banged-up Tien Lei must also get well in a hurry for the Cats if they wish to upset the -regular--season champs in this best-of-seven series.