Red-hot Pure Youth Construction held off a tenacious fourth-quarter rally by the Taiwan Mobile Cloud Leopards by hitting all but one of their final six free-throw attempts to eke out a 90-86 win in Game 3 of the SBL Championship Finals at the Kaohsiung Arena last night to grab a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Star forward Tsai Wen-cheng did not match his 15-point output as he had done in the first two contests of the series with only 11 to his credit, but his perfect seven-for-seven shooting from the charity stripe, including four straight in the game’s final 31 seconds, proved just as effective in lifting the two-time defending champions past their foes, one win shy of a “Threepeat” only accomplished once before — by the Yulon Luxgens — in league history.
“This is a game that could decide the outcome of the series and we will give it our best to nail it down,” Pure Youth coach Hsu Chin-che said prior to the game in which his troops ultimately prevailed.
Keh Chi-hao’s pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes sparked a 26-point first quarter in which the Builders connected on a perfect four-for-four from downtown for a 26-21 lead.
Keh ended up with a team-high 21 points on the night to make up for Tsai’s lack of offensive contribution.
Six points apiece by Wu Yung-ren and Lin Yao-tsong in a hard-fought second quarter kept the game close for the Leopards, but it did not prevent the Builders’ balanced attack from pouring down 22, including four more three-pointers, to claim a 48-40 advantage at halftime.
Pure Youth managed to up their lead to 13 points midway through the third quarter for what appeared to be another certain victory for the regular-season champions, until an all-out rally by the Leopards brought them to within three points with 33 seconds remaining after Chang Rong-hsuan’s three-point play the old-fashioned way.
Unfortunately for the Leopards, that was as close as they got as Tsai calmly nailed a pair of free throws that made it a five-point game.
The Leopards had one last try at catching the Builders when Ho Sho-cheng took the ball strong to the hoop with 24 seconds remaining, but the normally sure-handed veteran missed the layup and gave the ball back to Pure Youth to seal his team’s fate.
The two teams have today off before the series heads north with Game 4 scheduled for tomorrow evening at the Sinjhuang Sports Complex in New Taipei City.