Seapower's challenge stays afloat
DEFENDING champions Seapower stayed in contention for a tilt at the Hongkong Division A1 title by edging Fukien 104-102 in a thrilling play-off match at the MacPherson Stadium, Mongkok last night.
Seapower, who finished fourth in the regular season and started the play-off round three points behind top seeds Seasonal, cannot afford to slip up if they are to retain their crown.
There was excitement right from the opening whistle as the two teams traded basket for basket until the score was tied 22-22 midway through the 20-minute half.
A 13-point scoring spree in the next two minutes saw Seapower pull away to a comfortable 35-22 lead but local veteran Cheng Chun-ping led a strong Fukien comeback with two three-pointers and they levelled the tally 37-37.
Fukien wrestled the lead three minutes from the interval through Steve Jackson and they remained two points ahead at half-time, leading 57-55.
When they extended their advantage to 82-74 half-way through the second period, Fukien looked set to score a runaway victory. But Seapower bounced back into contention by scoring six points without reply.
Just when they found their rhythm, Seapower lost American import Greg Butler to five fouls and it seemed they were fighting a lost cause when Benny Anthony made two free throws to put Fukien 84-80 up.
But Dwayne Corbitt hit back with five points, including a three pointer, to regain the lead for Seapower and it was a ding-dong battle as the lead swung to and fro.
Tension mounted as Seapower led 96-95 with three minutes remaining. They were still one point ahead, leading 100-99, going into the final minute.
Then Robert Alston scored four points to give them a seemingly safe five-point cushion but Fukien's Cheng narrowed the deficit 104-102 with a three-pointer 25 seconds from the buzzer.
Fukien were still in with a chance when they were awarded a free throw in the last four seconds, but Chan Kin-man missed, and two attempts by James Jones from rebounds also failed.
Alston led all scorers' with 39 points for Seapower while Corbitt was also in top shooting form with 33.
Title favourites Seasonal showed they are ready to reassert their supremacy in Hongkong basketball with a convincing 99-85 victory over Regal after leading 48-40 at half-time.
Seasonal, a dominant power in the 1980s who have failed to win a trophy in the past two seasons, led all the way for their second triumph in the play-off round leaving them of the play-off round-robin.