T1 LEAGUE to end 2021 with top-two showdown

Taiwan's T1 League professional basketball league will end 2021 with a thrilling matchup of the league's top two teams as the Kaohsiung Aquas take on Taipei-based TaiwanBeer HeroBears in the southern port city Friday.

The Aquas currently sit on top of the league with a 4-1 record, while the HeroBears are 4-2 in the six-team league that tipped off on Nov. 27 when the two teams played the league's inaugural game in Taipei.

The Kaohsiung team, led by Brendan Joyce, former head coach of the Australian Opals, had been putting on a clinic since the season started with four consecutive wins before losing to the Taichung Wagor Suns 93-88 on Sunday.

Despite the one loss, the Aquas have proved to be one of the most promising teams in the league, boasting an all-star lineup that includes Filipino-American playmaker Jason Brickman, Lithuanian rebound king Mindaugas Kupšas, and Taiwan national team forward Hu Long-mao (???).

Brickman is on top of the league assist table with an average of 6.8 per game, while Kupšas is second on the rebound table with 14.8 rebounds, trailing just new Taiwanese William Artino of the Tainan TSG GhostHawks, who posted 15 rebounds in his first game Sunday.

Meanwhile, the HeroBears' American center Diamond Stone, who averages a stellar 34.8 points per game, currently leads the league in scoring.

The highly anticipated matchup between the Aquas and the HeroBears will take place Friday at Kaohsiung Arena.

Another game to watch out for over the weekend is Saturday's matchup between the GhostHawks and the Taoyuan Leopards.

The GhostHawks will be hosting the Leopards at Chia Nan University's Shao Tsung Gymnasium in Tainan and may likely repeat their destruction of the Leopards by over 30 points in their last matchup Sunday at Chung Yuan Christian University Gymnasium.

The U.S.-born Artino posted a double-double of 15 rebounds and 25 points, including two ice-cold three-pointers from beyond the arc to deny the struggling Leopards any chance of making a comeback.

The excitement will continue Sunday as Artino's GhostHawks take on the Aquas in Tainan in a game that might remind Taiwanese fans of the days of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) as Artino, Brickman, GhostHawks American forward Chuck Garcia, and Aquas swingman Xavier Alexander have all played in the regional basketball league.

The ABL called off its 10th season last year, which included two Taiwanese teams -- the Dreamers and the Taipei Fubon Braves -- as the pandemic continued to disrupt sports events in East and Southeast Asia.

In a year that was supposed to mark one decade of the ABL, the league concluded the season on July 15, 2020 without a winner and has yet to restart.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel