Guo Ailun (L) of Liaoning competes during the men's basketball final against Xinjiang at 13th Chinese National Games in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Sept. 8, 2017. Liaoning claimed the title by 78-61. (Xinhua/Pan Yulong)
TIANJIN, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Guo Ailun led Liaoning to their first men's basketball gold medal at the National Games after his team beat Xinjiang 78-61 here on Friday.
The guard finished with a match-high 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Guo stood out in the second half for Liaoning, who finished the first half with a lead of only one point, as he scored 14 of his 22 in the final period.
Liaoning suffered a sudden blow when the match started for just only 47 seconds. Their center Zhou Qi, who will play for NBA's Houston Rockets next season, injured his right hand and had to walk off the court. Xinjiang seized this chance to open the match with a 9-2.
Zhou Qi returned to the match in the middle of the first quarter, which immediately changed Liaoning's situation. He first assisted Li Xiaoxu for an easy lay-up and then made in two free-throws. Guo Ailun also added two three-pointers, which helped Liaoning to cut Xinjiang's lead to three points by the end of the first period.
Kyranbek and Xiralijian Muhtar's three-pointers in the second quarter once enlarged Xinjiang's lead to seven. But then Liaoning answered with a 9-0 to take the lead back. Cong Mingchen scored all his five points in the second quarter for Liaoning, who ended the first half at 39-38.
Liaoning improved their defensive intensity from the first second of the second half, which limited Xinjiang to only 11 points in the third quarter. Han Dejun became the star for Liaoning in that period as the center took seven points.
The fourth quarter became Guo's show time. He scored 12 of Liaoning's first 17 points in that period, while Xinjiang only scored six points in the first five minutes. Trailing by 19 points with only four minutes to the end of the match, Xinjiang failed to turn the table but a silver medal is still their best result in the history of National Games.
Besides Guo's 22, Zhou Qi completed with a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Li Xiaoxu and Han Dejun combined for 22. Wang Zirui led Xinjiang with 22.
"This gold medal means a lot to Liaoning team," said Guo Shiqiang, head coach of Liaoning team. "We have been waiting for the title for too long. For 58 years, we failed to crown ourselves. Just countless runner-ups. But today, Liaoning's dream came true. Salute to my boys. They are the best."
The bronze medal went to defending champion Guangdong, who defeated Shanghai 65-49 for the third place.