A 30 second span towards the end of the 3rd quarter between the Mono Warriors and Hitech in the TPBL was a great example of how heated and entertaining the ever-lasting rivalry between these two teams can get.
Hitech fans were ready to get up on their feet for a dunk by their new import player, J’Mison Morgan, but the tide turned quickly when Morgan botched the dunk attempt off of the rim. The miss landed in the hands of “Palm” Darongphan Apiromvilaichai and now it was the Mono Warrirors’ crowd who were turning up the volume. The orange wave of players sped up towards the basket looking for the best shot.
When the ball got to “Big” Teerawat, he probably expected an easy basket being so close to the hoop, but instead found his shot rejected right back at him by Morgan who had rushed back to make up for his miss earlier. Suddenly, the venue was roaring with cheers from the Hitech side.
They didn’t cheer for long after Teerawat collected his miss, passed it to a wide open Darongphan, who knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer. It was Mono Warriors first lead of the game after trailing by as much as 20 points, which was a good enough reason for the Warriors’ faithful to drown out Hitech’s supporters.
This is what it’s all about. This is the Mono-Hitech rivalry and you will get this level of energy wherever these two teams play against each other. Now, the rivalry has extended on to the Thailand Professional Basketball League.
“You know it’s Mono, man,” Xavier Alexander said after the game. The X-Man carried his team with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 steals. “Everything in practice is magnitude to the thousandth power. You know our locals work hard. They’ve been working hard since the import players got here. We just got everything together and tonight, we were successful with getting a win.”
In the very first Mono-Hitech rivalry game of the TPBL, it was Hitech who emerged as victors. But it was a win that didn’t come easily.
Hitech dominated the first half, with the hot-shooting hand of Nakorn Jaisnuk who rained in 4 threes. The second half, however, became the Mono Warriors game as they pressed Hitech into turnover after turnover to successfully claw back into the game and overtake the lead. Even when the Mono Warriors were down by 2 with less than 30 seconds, Warriors’ Chitchai Ananti stole the ball off an inbounds play to send the game into overtime.
This is how the Mono-Hitech rivalry goes and Alexander knows well of this fact.
“Being on the other side of it, playing for [the Singapore Slingers] and getting to see it coming here to Hitech last year, getting to know the rivalry first hand and being a part of it is amazing,” Alexander said. He was the key to Hitech’s TBL 2018 title run over Mono Vampire, their first in 5 years. “It’s two organizations with two great local players and two good coaching staffs, so it’s always a good game. Always top of the crop.”
Though the Mono Vampire Basketball Club was established only in 2014, they have not wasted time in building up this rivalry with Hitech over the year. Whether it’s coralling some of the best talents from Thewphaingarm (another Hitech rival) or winning three straight TBL titles from 2015 to 2017 (2 of those titles were against Hitech in the Finals) before their loss last year.
Certainly, there was no one disappointed in the first meet of these two teams in this new competition.
Many players are used to this level of intensity between the two franchises. Guys like “Arm” Nattakarn Meungboon and “Singh” Chanachon Klahan have played on both sides in the past. For Moses Morgan, even though he has played in the Thailand basketball scene for 5 years, this is his first taste of the rivalry.
“I’m just happy to be out here really,” Moses said. “I missed the last [three] years of the TBL so it’s good to be back. It’s good to be a part of [the rivalry]. You could tell towards the end it got really competitive everybody was into it. It was fun.”
Morgan led his team in this game, playing over 40 minutes and put up 21 points with 11 rebounds. Even as intense as the game was, Morgan still insists it’s just another game for him.
“Honestly, there wasn’t really any hype,” Morgan said of the atmosphere of the practice leading up to this game. “It was just another game.”
“I already knew going into it. I have heard about it in the past about the rivalry. I know it’s a game that we wanted to win but it was fun.”
The Mono-Hitech game turned out to be as good as advertised, a good sign for the TPBL. Fans already know how serious it can get for local Thai players to win games like this, but it’s refreshing to see that even import players like Xavier Alexander or a dual citizen like Moses Morgan have also absorbed the intensity of this rivalry as well.
The First Round has gone to Hitech with a home win in entertaining fashion, but how will the tables turn in Round 2? Don’t forget to mark your calendars for July 20 at 3:00 PM for the encore at GSB Stadium29, Nonthaburi!