Taichung Suns head coach Chris Gavina told CNA his team's 95-90 come-from-behind road win against the TaiwanBeer HeroBears in the T1 LEAGUE on Saturday reflected "puso" as the team played with heart to secure victory in the face of adversity and pressure.
The Suns snapped their three-game losing st reak to stun the HeroBears, handing the Taipei-based team their third loss in a row, as the Taichung team's new recruit Rayvonte Rice dropped 46 points, eight rebounds, two dimes and five steals, while only turning over the ball four times.
"Ray personifies what 'puso' means, being able to deal with adversity and pressure, and showing up when those big moments arise," said Gavina, T1 LEAGUE's first Filipino head coach.
The Tagalog word "puso," which translates as "heart" in English, embodies a desire to win even if the team is outnumbered or outgunned.
The Suns synchronized as one on the court as the players fed off each other's body language and energy, Gavina added.
"When you have five guys beating as one heartbeat, it makes everything easier for myself as a coach. I'm sure as a player they know that when everyone's out there just competing for one another," Gavina said.
At the post-game press conference after the game played at the University of Taipei Tianmu Campus Gymnasium, Rice said the win was a reflection of teamwork.
"Tremendous effort from everybody, from the coaching staff to every one of our players, from every guy on the bench, they made it feel like home since I landed. Even in practice, finding me in positions, just made me feel real comfortable," Rice said.
The game opened with both teams collecting 21 points at the end of the opening quarter before fast breaks and better accuracy helped the HeroBears to a 12-point 58-46 lead at halftime.
The Suns rallied in the third quarter to trail by only five points 68-63 with five minutes and 22 seconds before the final quarter.
The deficit increased to 79-71 at the start of the fourth quarter, but was reduced to a one-point game 90-89 after a three-pointer by Suns forward Marlon Johnson with 2:42 minutes left in the game.
However, a layup by Rayvonte Rice put the team ahead 91-90 with 47 seconds left in the game. A steal, followed by a fast break by Rice pushed the score to 93-90, and two more free-throws from the 30-year-old American secured the victory 95-90.
The win gives the Suns a 6-9 record, placing them fifth in the six-team league standings, 5.5 games behind the 12-4 New Taipei CTBC DEA in first place. Meanwhile, the HeroBears are 7-8 and in fourth place and 4.5 back from the DEA.
DEA defeat Aquas
Also, in the T1 LEAGUE on Saturday, the DEA defeated the defending champions the Kaohsiung Aquas 88-77 in a road game at K-Arena to remain on top of the T1 LEAGUE standings, with three consecutive wins and a 12-4 record.
The 11-6 Aquas are second and 1.5 games behind the DEA after having their four-game consecutive win ended by the defeat.
DEA center Edgaras Zelionis dropped a double-double with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four dimes, while teammate Nick King came off the bench to record 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Aquas world import John Bohannon answered with 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and five blocks.
The DEA had a comfortable cushion for most of the game before the Aquas cut the deficit to trail by two points with three minutes and 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Bohannon put in a two-pointer.
However, the Aquas were unable to edge in front, missing crucial shots as the DEA rallied to win the game by 11 points.
Kings outhustle Steelers
Meanwhile in Taiwan's other professional basketball league, the P. LEAGUE+, the New Taipei Kings outhustled the Kaohsiung 17LIVE Steelers 109-102 to lead the six-team league with a 14-5 record.
The cellar-dwelling 2-17 Steelers are 12 games behind the Kings.
Steelers forward Olufemi Anthony Olujobi posted 40 points, seven rebounds, one assist, four steals and one block during the game, which was played at Kaohsiung Fengshan Stadium.
Braves on five game winning streak
Also in the P. LEAGUE+, back-to-back defending champions, Taipei Fubon Braves, extended their winning run to five games in a row after edging the Pilots 80-78 at Taoyuan Arena.
The Braves are third in the standings with an 11-8 record and are 2.5 games behind the Kings, while the Pilots are second and 0.5 games behind the New Taipei team.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel