The monkey was finally off their backs. Song-shan High School used a 8-0 run in the last two minutes en route to a 69-61 victory over Nen-jen HS in the HBL championship game and won its first ever HBL title in school history.
Song-shan finished the season 16-0 and gave head coach Huang Wan-long his first title ring in 12 years with the Taipei City school.
It has been five years since Song-shan last played in the final four, and it has been 10 years since Song-shan last played in the national title game. In between, the best finish it has ever achieved was the fifth place. Twice it was out of the final eight.
Which was a disgrace for a school that has been known for hard-nosed defense and has produced famous alumni like Chen Hsin-an, who was at the game Sunday night to show his support. Somehow, Song-shan always lost on buzzer-beaters, untimely losses and missed free-throws.
San yi-ching, a undersized 193cm center, was named MVP after a 16-point, 6 rebounds outing. He had 15 and 5 in the semifinal win over defending champ Nan-shan HS.
With a 13-point lead evaporated and the game tied at 61 all, Song-shan players showed a soldout crowd how determined they wanted to bring home the title this time. San Yi-ching scored on an offensive rebound before Shih Jin-yao's 3-pointer and Lu Kwan-liang's fastbreak layup. Shih then made one of two free-throws.
The scoring spurt in 60 seconds decided the outcome and put a footnote on Song-shan's spectacular undefeated season. This time they brought their A game when it mattered most. No more missed free-throws and outside shots. No more letdowns.
However, it seemed Song-shan was going to have another breakdown in the second half. "The Green Shield, " the school's nickname for its tenacious man-to-man defense, led 39-26 early in the third quarter but Nen-jen point guard Chen Kuei-hsiang drained four threes to make the game interesting.
Chen Kuei-hsiang, who almost single-handedly led Nen-jen to a unbelievable comeback, made the last of his game-high six 3-pointers with six minutes to go to tie the score.
Chen finished with 25 points, five boards, four assists and two steals while freshman phenom Chen Ying-jun scored 23. The "Chen combo" combined for 48 of Nen-jen's 61 points.
Hu Lung-mao, Song-shan's another undersized center at 190cm, scored 12 points to go with two blocks. Shih Jin-yao added 6 points and five rebounds.
I still remember watching Song-shan players crying in the locker room after one of those heartbreaking losses. That is why my heart goes out for Song-shan boys and Huang Wan-long, a friend of mine. After all these years of blood, sweat and tears, they deserved this trophy. No more heartbreaks.
A NIKE banner saying “Dominate”.
HBL championship trophy and banner.
The Green Boys are enjoying their first title.
(Photos: UDN.com, Apple Daily, CNA, Liberty Times)