P. LEAGUE+ & T1 LEAGUE/T1 League tightens up after DEA top Aquas in thriller

03/07/2022 07:07 PM
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Marlon Johnson. Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA
Marlon Johnson. Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Only two games separated the top four teams in the T1 LEAGUE at the end of the weekend's games after the New Taipei CTBC DEA pulled off a stunning turnaround in the final seconds of its 91-90 win over the league-leading Kaohsiung Aquas on Sunday.

The Aquas entered their road showdown against the second-place DEA with a chance to take a 2 1/2 game lead over their closest rivals, and for the first three quarters the team from Kaohsiung seemed poised to do just that, grabbing a 75-63 lead.

Marlon Johnson (left). Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA
Marlon Johnson (left). Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA

The DEA turned up their play defensively in the final quarter to slowly carve away at the Aquas advantage but still trailed 90-86 with 21.5 seconds left.

After a time out, DEA center Marlon Johnson drained a three-pointer with 15.5 seconds left to pull his team to within one.

Johnson then sent the home crowd into a frenzy when he knocked away a pass by Aquas playmaker Jason Brickman near the sideline in the Aquas backcourt, gained control of the ball near the baseline, and put in a short driving floater to put the DEA up 91-90 lead with 7.7 seconds to go.

After another time out, the Aquas inbounded the ball to only have it batted away by DEA forward Mohammad Al Bachir Gadiaga, known locally as Abbasi, and caught by teammate Chanatip Jakrawan, forcing Aquas center Mindaugas Kupsas to foul to stop the clock.

They committed two more fouls but did not reach the number of team fouls needed to send the DEA to the foul line and were never able to regain possession.

The New Taipei team held on to improve its record to 13-7, a half a game back of the 12-5 Aquas.

Johnson led his team with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists, and came through when it counted.

"I was just ready to shoot the ball," Johnson said. "I just wanted to win and I knew that was a big shot, so I was just locked in."

Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA
Photo courtesy of the New Taipei CTBC DEA

Meanwhile, Aquas head coach Brendan Joyce said his team did not play as well defensively as it could have in the fourth quarter.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game, so for me it was a very disappointing loss in all honesty," he said.

Kupšas led the Aquas with 24 points and 14 rebounds.

T1 LEAGUE game high: The DEA also started their three-game weekend on a high, setting a new league single-game scoring record with a 135-127 overtime win over the Taipei-based TaiwanBeer HeroBears at home in Xinzhuang Gymnasium on Friday.

The total topped the previous record of 133 points set in February by the Aquas.

DEA forward Cleanthony Early recorded his personal second triple-double of the season with 48 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Image courtesy of T1 LEAGUE
Image courtesy of T1 LEAGUE

The 2.03-meter American forward, who has been hit with several technical fouls and ejections this year, is one of the league's biggest crowd pleasers when he is on his game.

The DEA's potentially perfect weekend was derailed on Saturday, when they were outhustled at home by the Taichung Wagor Suns and forward Sani Sakakini in a 113-105 loss.

The Palestinian player posted his first triple-double of the season with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists, and teammate Chen Ching-huan (陳靖寰) put up 26 points to help the Suns improve their record to 10-7 and pull to within two games of the Aquas.

Image courtesy of T1 LEAGUE
Image courtesy of T1 LEAGUE

The visiting Tainan TSG GhostHawks caused a big upset Saturday as they edged past the HeroBears 113-110 at the University of Taipei's Tianmu campus gym.

GhostHawks forwards Chuck Garcia Jr. and Marcus Gilbert both pocketed 28 points to help overpower the HeroBears.

The Taiwan Beer sponsored team snapped its two-game losing streak on Sunday, however, when it mounted a second-half comeback to defeat the visiting Taoyuan Leopards 115-113.

HeroBears captain Chiang Yu-an (蔣淯安) and guard Lee Chi-wei (李啓瑋) both scored 25 points, while Leopards forward Troy Williams and center Deyonta Davis recorded 25 and 24 points, respectively.

The HeroBears ended the weekend 11-8, tied for third with the Wagor Suns two games behind the Aquas. The GhostHawks were in fifth at 3-12 and the Leopards were in last at 2-12.

Anthony Bennett P. LEAGUE+ debut: Former NBA No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett made his debut for the Kaohsiung Steelers against the Hsinchu JKO Lioneers on Saturday in Taiwan's P. LEAGUE+.

The Kaohsiung club was hoping for a spark from Bennett after a 4-9 start that left it in last place in the six-team P.LEAGUE+, and he performed well, with 20 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and three steals in his first appearance in Taiwan.

But his Canadian compatriot on the Lioneers, 2.26-meter Sim Bhullar, got the better of their matchup with 27 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks to lead his team to a 97-87 win at home.

Still, Bennett was optimistic about the future and felt he simply needed to get into a rhythm and not force shots.

"A lot to learn from, can only get better from here, just got to keep pushing," Bennett said.

Anthony Bennett (right) and Sim Bhullar Photo courtesy of the Kaohsiung Steelers
Anthony Bennett (right) and Sim Bhullar Photo courtesy of the Kaohsiung Steelers

The Lioneers improved their record to 8-6 by topping the Steelers but a 111-96 loss to the New Taipei Kings on Sunday left them 8-7 at week's end in fourth place in the P.LEAGUE+, one game behind the Kings, the Taishin Formosa Dreamers and the Taipei Fubon Braves.

Bhullar led all scorers in the Lioneers loss with 34 points, while center Thomas Welsh led the Kings with 25.

The Dreamers, who entered the weekend as the league's top team, were upset by the Taoyuan Pilots 81-77 at Taoyuan Arena on Saturday. The Pilots improved their record to 4-7 behind forward Devin Robinson, who led all scorers with 22 points and added 12 rebounds.

Source: P. LEAGUE+

A day later, however, the Pilots fell to 4-8 after a 99-79 blowout by the Braves, who improved to 9-6. Braves big man Samuel Deguara, and Pilots forwards Robinson and Jordan Tolbert all scored 22 points.

Stand with Ukraine: The P. LEAGUE+ showed support for its player of Ukrainian heritage Ihor Zaytsev of the Taipei Fubon Braves by inviting him to hold a Ukranian flag during the pre-game player introductions before his team faced off against the Pilots on Sunday.

Fans at Taoyuan Arena also prepared small hand held Ukranian flags that displayed the words "I STAND WITH UKRAINE."

Source: P. LEAGUE+

The 2.11-meter Zaytsev was not active for Sunday's game because of the emotional toll of the situation in his home country.

Braves head coach Roger Hsu (許晉哲) said the team will let Zaytsev take as much time as he needs. "We'll wait for him to tell us when he's ready to go."

(By William Yen)

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