Abando-less Anyang escapes New Taipei to cop EASL bronze

John Bryan Ulanday - Philstar.com
Abando-less Anyang escapes New Taipei to cop EASL bronze
Ji-Hoon Park (6) put on a show with 29 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
East Asia Super League

LAPU-LAPU CITY – No Rhenz Abando, no problem. 

Dethroned champion Anyang, even without the Filipino import, took the next possible prize by escaping past New Taipei with a thrilling 78-76 win for the bronze medal in the East Asia Super League (EASL) Sunday at the Hoops Dome here. 

The Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters nearly blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but held on just enough to finish at the podium in EASL’s first home-and-away season after ruling the Champions Week in Japan last year. 

Ji-Hoon Park put on a show in front of the roaring Filipino fans with 29 points on three triples along with eight rebounds and three steals as Anyang was quick to shrug off a tough 94-79 defeat to Korean rival Seoul in the semifinals. 

Park’s outburst included seven points in the payoff period, where the Red Boosters built a 72-62 lead only to almost fold in the clutch before banking on its defensive teeth to win a $250,000 prize.

Imports Robert Carter Jr. (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Jamil Wilson (11 points, 12 rebounds), and Hyogeun Jeong with 11 points on two triples also delivered for the reigning Korean Basketball League (KBL) champion. 

“New Taipei was a strong and great team but we’re focused a little bit more in the game and that was the key. We’re happy to go home (to Korea) with this win,” said coach Kim Sang Shik, who opted to rest Abando due to his nagging back injury. 

Abando had 11 points on 4-of-4 freethrows and three rebounds last game as he braved his injury to show up for his compatriots in his homecoming since suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup in Manila.

Park, after settling for only eight points against Seoul, got Abando in ensuring a winning gift for the Filipino fans, whom he granted autographs and selfies after the match.

“I’m happy to get a win here in the Philippines. Everybody in our team didn’t lose focus and contributed in getting this big win in front of an amazing Philippine crowd,” said Park, cheered by the locals like their own due to his stellar performance.

Joseph Lin struggled for only six points after scoring 21 against Chiba as Kenneth Manigault Jr., (18), Chin-Min Yang (15), Austine Daye (15) and Hayden Blankley (13) bannered the Kings in yet another commendable fight despite not having star player Jeremy Lin. 

Lin, the former NBA sensation, with a plantar fasciitis injury sat out EASL Final Four, including the New Taipei’s 92-84 semis defeat to unbeaten Chiba Jets of Japan. 

Chiba and Seoul were to play at press time for the coveted EASL crown plus the $1-million grand prize.

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