Tears May Fall, But Kaohsiung Truth Vow To Finish ABL Season Strong

“Where’s Slash?”

Head Coach Sabatino Chen glanced at his bench, looking for Kaohsiung Truth local player Hao Chun “Slash” Chang. He intended to give him a chance to enter the ballgame and play out the final two minutes of the game. The Truth were down 24 points points to the Westports Malaysia Dragons, and when the buzzer would sound, it was signify the end of the new team’s Playoffs.

But there was one problem: Chang was nowhere to be found. He had exited the playing court of the Gem-In mall, for an unspecified reason. But he immediately returned, and took his place on the bench. Coach Chen, looked at him, and asked him if he wanted to enter the game. Chang shook his head, refusing to move from his spot.

“Why not?” Chen asked.

As soon as he was asked that, Chang’s eyes welled with tears. Unwilling to show his emotion, he draped his towel over his head, trying to hide the disappointment that was painfully evident all over his blue and black jersey.

“I found out after it was because he felt he gave it his all,” Chen said. “And we came up short. That’s a tough feeling, when you give it all you’ve got, and it’s not good enough.”

As Chang sat silently, Chen approached him, wrapped his arm around Chang’s head and whispered something to him. Soon after, Chris Oliver, Kaohsiung’s hard working World Import did the same. Ditto for Derek Hall. The rest left Chang to his thoughts and tears.

Soon after, the buzzer sounded. With their 103-78 win, the Dragons could celebrate on their home floor for another 24 hours. Their hopes to defend their title still flickered, just barely. They will need the Saigon Heat to lose the remainder of their games in order to make the Playoffs.

The Truth gathered in a circle. Their season, by all measures, was done. The loss to the Dragons dropped them to the bottom of the standings, and the fourth seed was out of reach. “Everybody wants to make the playoffs,” Team owner and player Wesley Hsu said. “We really, really wanted to.”

But the Playoffs would have to wait for another year. There they stood, arms over one another, waiting for some to break the silence.

Two people would speak- Oliver and Hsu. Oliver started, and he spoke loudly and full of pride.

“When they come to our place, let’s top them. They took away our playoff hopes, let’s take theirs away. Let’s beat them by 40 in our place.”

Hsu took some time, waiting to see if someone else wanted to say anything else. When no one did, he chimed in.

“Even though we won’t be able to make the Playoffs guys, Holly [Hsu’s wife] and I are so proud of every one of you. We love every one of you.

Everything was worth it to do this with you guys. We’re really thankful. Let’s just make this last week together good, and let’s make these last few games memorable. Let’s love each other and play together.”

“Everyone stay together,” Oliver reiterated, as the Truth locked hands in the center. Soon they left the court, refusing to look at the Dragons and their dreams of the playoffs still alive and kicking.

————

For a moment in time, the Truth were in still in control of their destiny. They climbed to as high as fourth place in the standings, with a record of 5-8. They had monster victories over the Dragons and Heat to put them in that position, and highlighted it with an emotional win over the Singapore Slingers.

But soon after, it all came tumbling down. The schedule as of late for Kaohsiung was brutal, with the past four games against the Slingers and Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions. And according to Coach Chen, the writing was soon on the wall on how to stop the Kaohsiung Truth. “I think we were doing well, then we hit that stretch where we played Singapore twice, Hong Kong. Those are the best teams in the league, best two defensive teams.”

“Teams know by now we don’t handle pressure well,” Chen said after the loss to Malaysia. “Teams pressured us and we turned it over. I think that was the big thing- those teams exploited us a little bit, and other teams could see that. Today we had 20 turnovers.”

Slowly but surely, the losses started to pile up. And simultaneously, the Heat and Dragons began to  elevate their play, racking up huge wins against higher seeded teams. And before long, this was the scenario facing the Truth. They had to rely on other teams for their basketball lives.

And during this afternoon, the Dragons ended it.

Early in the season, it was easy to look past the Kaohsoiung Truth. Their season began on a tough note, losing their first four games by huge margins. The members of their squad are so young, that for many players this was their first time to experience basketball at this level.

“We have six or seven guys that have never played pro basketball before,” Chen admitted. “We’re a young team, yet we were that close to making it to the playoffs.”

But no one will sleep on the Kaohsiung Truth anymore. They’ve earned the respect of everyone by playing together, competing, and figuring out how to stay competitive up until the very end.

Some people may wonder what else is there to play for, with two remaining games on the schedule and the playoffs out of reach. The answer to this question can be found not on the basketball floor, but in what is at the heart of the Kaohsiung Truth.

“We won some games, lost some games,” Hsu shared. “But at the end of the day, our core value of what we wanted to do, to represent God through basketball, in a positive and good way, we did that. Mission accomplished.”

“In that sense, it would have just been extra gravy on the biscuit if we could have made the playoffs, or made a magical run.”

Representing everything good about their city has been in the hearts and minds of the Truth all season long. And though they won’t make the postseason, they have two more games to showcase to their home team what the heart of the team is all about. And just as Oliver told his team to to fight, the rest of the squad, vows to make it count.

“The fans have supported us all year long, so we can pay them back by giving them two good games,” Coach Chen said. “Hopefully they’re close games, and we can give them good entertaining basketball.”

And though sorrow and tears may last for the night, joy will come once again for the Kaohsiung Truth. Because their joy and identity has never been found only in winning basketball games. It’s been in representing their city, and doing something that will last longer than any player, dunk, or shot on the basketball.

“We’re not gonna let anybody come into our house and beat us,” Hsu shared. “We’re gonna try to beat them, and we’re gonna try to beat them bad if we can.”

“I hope they come out as hard as we can, because we will.”