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T1 LEAGUE final to tip off on May 24

05/18/2024 11:47 PM
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Four-time NBA all-star DeMarcus Cousins of the T1 LEAGUE's Taiwan Beer Leopards drives to the basket while being defended by two Taipei Mars players at a game at Taoyuan Arena on April 20, 2024. Photo courtesy of T1 League
Four-time NBA all-star DeMarcus Cousins of the T1 LEAGUE's Taiwan Beer Leopards drives to the basket while being defended by two Taipei Mars players at a game at Taoyuan Arena on April 20, 2024. Photo courtesy of T1 League

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) The final series of the 2023-24 T1 LEAGUE season will start next week, the league announced Friday, three days after the Taipei Mars surprisingly secured the final slot in the league's championship series.

In a statement issued late Friday, the league said the best-of-seven series will tip off at 7 p.m. on May 24 at Taoyuan Arena as the Taiwan Beer Leopards host the Mars.

The Mars secured their final slot by upsetting the defending champion New Taipei CTBC DEA 97-91 on May 14 to take the series 3-2, a loss described by DEA veteran Tseng Wen-ting (曾文鼎) as akin to the "Titanic hitting an iceberg."

Coming into the playoffs with the second-best regular-season record, the Leopards will have home court advantage in Games 1, 2, 5, and 7, and will visit Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium for Games 3, 4, and 6, according to the statement.

Tickets to the Leopards' first two home games will be on sale from Saturday, the franchise said in a statement issued earlier in the day.

Taipei Mars players celebrate at New Taipei's Xinzhuang Gymnasium Tuesday after clinching the final berth. CNA photo May 14, 2024
Taipei Mars players celebrate at New Taipei's Xinzhuang Gymnasium Tuesday after clinching the final berth. CNA photo May 14, 2024

The battle means the T1 LEAGUE will have a first-time champion this year, after the Kaohsiung Aquas were the league's inaugural champion in its 2021-2022 season and the DEA won last year's title.

One of the six franchises in the league when it was established in the summer of 2021, the Leopards missed the playoffs in the previous two seasons with a combined 14-46 record.

This year, in a five-team league, they finished 18-10 during the regular season, good enough for second place behind the 19-9 DEA.

Meanwhile, the Mars made it to the final in their first season. Although the team struggled to a 3-11 start, it went on an 8-6 run after the Lunar New Year break to edge the Tainan TSG GhostHawks, the reigning runners-up, for the final playoff spot.

The Aquas finished third, but were swept in their best-of-five-series against the Leopards for a spot in the finals. The clincher was a 113-111 Leopards win on May 10 on a game-winning shot by former NBA star DeMarcus Cousins.

Graphic courtesy of T1 LEAGUE
Graphic courtesy of T1 LEAGUE

On paper at least, the Leopards would seem to have the advantage in the championship series.

The league's scoring and steals titles went to Leopards' small forward Lasan Kromah, while his teammate Devin Williams, who grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 29 for the league's single-game record, was the league's rebounding leader.

In addition, Kromah was joined by backcourt talents Chiang Yu-an (蔣淯安) and Gao Jin-wei (高錦瑋) on the All-T1 LEAGUE first team.

In contrast, Lin Ping-sheng (林秉聖), named to the league's all-defensive first team, the third straight year he won the award, is the only Mars player who received an individual accolade this season.

The team's chances were also dealt a blow when forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson tore his right Achilles tendon in the first quarter of Game 1 against the DEA while driving to the rim and was lost for the rest of the playoffs.

The Mars showed their resilience and tenacity, however, by outlasting the DEA, as was embodied by Lin.

Despite having a high fever, Lin played over 38 minutes in the decider against the DEA to chip in five points, six rebounds, and seven assists, helping the Mars overcome an 18-point deficit for the win.

Meanwhile, the P.LEAGUE+ (PLG), the other professional basketball league in Taiwan, will have new champions emerge in the 2023-24 season after Hsinchu Toplus Lioneers defeated the Formosa Dreamers 99-87 at home Saturday.

The win saw the Lioneers clinch the fourth place for the last playoffs spot while the Taipei Fubon Braves, the PLG three-time defending champions, finished fifth to miss the playoffs for the first time.

At the same time, the game means the top-seeded Taoyuan Pauian Pilots will host the Lioneers on May 23 for Game 1 of the semifinal series, where the second-seeded Dreamers will face off against the New Taipei Kings at home on May 24 for their first game.

Both of the semifinal and final will be best-of-seven series.

(By Chao Yen-hsiang)

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