The Championship Finals begin at 7pm this evening at the Kaohsiung Feng Shan Gymnasium, where top-seeded and four-time defending champions Pure Youth Construction will look to defend their title against the second-seeded Taiwan Beer.
The best-of-seven series is a rematch from last season, when the Builders overcame a 1-3 deficit in dramatic fashion, taking the final three games to deny the Brew Crew’s bid for what would have been their fourth league title.
Topping the fifth-seeded Fubon Braves 4-2 in the semi-finals, despite dropping the opener, Pure Youth took games 2, 3, 5 and 6 to punch their ticket to an unprecedented fifth straight finals appearance.
As for Taiwan Beer, the road to their quest for the Holy Grail began with an overtime win against the third-seeded Dacin Tigers in their semi-final opener. They needed just five games to tame the Cats, winning the best-of-seven series 4-1.
“We are not going to make the same mistake again this year, you can be sure of that,” Taiwan Beer head coach Yen Chia-hua said in an interview, referring to his team’s meltdown in the final three games of last year’s championship finals.
Yen and the rest of the Brew Crew have their work cut out for them, as the Builders will try to make it five titles in five finals appearances to remain unbeaten in title series.
“We have only one goal, which is to win the title, and we will do everything we can to reach that goal,” Pure Youth head coach Ben Metcalf said earlier this week.
It will not be an easy task for the Builders either, as the Brew Crew dominated their five regular-season games, winning four with an average margin of victory of 8.8 points.
Though some might argue that results from the regular season are not a good indicator of post-season form, the wins should be a mental boost for Taiwan Beer, especially in the opener.
How well Liu Cheng plays against the high-pressure Pure Youth defense and how quickly Taiwan Beer get back on defense to minimize their exposure to the patented Builders’ transition game will likely determine the series.
Also worth noting is the play of the Brew Crew’s emerging star Chiang Yu-an, who has improved steadily to establish himself as one of the premier slashers in the league with an unbelievable first step that could mean trouble for the Builders half-court defense.
If the point guard is allowed too much penetration, it will create some easy basket opportunities for the Brew Crew.
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