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Taiwanese emerge as surprise finalists

South Korea

SOUTH Korea and underdogs Taiwan powered their way into the final of the men's Asian Under-22s Championships at the Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai last night.

The Koreans, overwhelmingly favoured for the title in the absence of arch-rivals China, were given a scare in the first half but relied on their superior fitness to crush Japan 98-74.

Japan surprisingly pulled away to a 28-22 lead 13 minutes into the match and it was only in the last minute of the first half that South Korea regained the advantage, thanks to a three-pointer from Moon Kyung-eun which put them 36-35 ahead at the interval.

An eight-point scoring spree led by three-pointers from Kim Seung-gi and Moon put South Korea into a 48-39 lead six minutes into the second period and they never looked back, pulling away to win by a 24-point margin.

Moon was top scorer for South Korea with 21 points while Kim also contributed 18, including four three-pointers.

The victory earned the Koreans a berth in the World Under-22s Championships in Barcelona in July.

Joining them as Asian representatives will be Taiwan, who defeated a second-string Philippines team 69-57 in the night's first match.

The Philippines, strongly fancied to reach the final, had to call up reserves when their top-line players walked out at the 11th hour.

''There has been some trouble with our best players after they returned from the Angsapura Cup in Indonesia last week,'' said Nicanor Jorge, secretary general of the Philippines Basketball Association, who declined to elaborate on the issue.

''Only two of our original squad are here, otherwise I'm sure we should have beaten Taiwan.'' Michael Orquillas, a member of the Philippines team who were runners-up to China at the Angsapura Cup, was the game's top scorer with 20 points but lacked support from his inexperienced teammates.

Taiwan opened up a 12-7 lead after only five minutes and never looked back. They were always in command, taking a 38-28 half-time lead and going on to win 69-57.

Captain Lo Shin-liung was Taiwan's highest scorer with 16 points while Lee Yun-hsiang scored 15.