Yang-ming HS upset favorite Tamsui Vocational HS 72-71 Friday for its first ever HBL women's final four appearance in school history and a reminder that we have a mini-version March Madness here in Taiwan.
Yang-ming advanced to the women's final four along with defending champion Hai-shan HS, Pu Men HS and Hujiang HS. Hai-shan beat Miaoli Vocational HS 59-49 while Pu Men, which finished for third-place last season, knocked out Jinou HS. Hujiang beat Taipei First Girls' HS 64-47.
The upset loss was hard to take for Tamsui Vocational HS, which won six women's titles in school history and was looking for the third consecutive womens final appearance. The women's basketball powerhouse had three titles, three runner-ups and two 3rd-place finishes in the last eight years.
The men's and women's single-elimination quarterfinal round gave us another surprise when Nen-jen HS eliminated Pintung HS 70-45. As all final four men's teams coming from the North, the 12-year streak of the North-South men's final has been snapped.
Men's final four teams are Nen-jen HS, Song-shan HS, Nan-shan HS and Chiang-shu HS.
Song-shan HS beat Keelung Commercial and Industrial Vocational HS 50-41 for its 14th straight win and the first final four berth in five years. Song-shan, which has produced many star players in the past but has yet to take home the HBL title, is the odds-on favorite to win it all this year.
Two-time defending champion Nan-shan HS got past Tai-shan HS 61-51 for its sixth straight appearance in the final four and a shot for the sixth title in school history.
For the past dozen years, school in Southern Taiwan produced numerous talented players such as Tien Lei, Chou Shih-yuan, Yang Yu-min and Jet Chang, who is now playing for BYU-Hawaii in the U.S. However, they have not been doing good in recruiting as most kids were recruited by the schools in the North.
Gone are the glory days of Pintung HS, which almost guaranteed for a spot in the final four in the last decade, and San-min HS, which Tien Lei and Chou Shih-yuan helped bring home two HBL titles. Kao-yuan HS and Hsin-jung HS have not been doing as well either.
Let's hope for a reemergence from the South. Most people would agree that, compared to the North, players from southern Taiwan always bring a more exciting style of play and passion for the game.