Chang Yu Lan: Chinese Taipei's young star out to prove how good they can be
BENGALURU (India) - In the entire history of youth competitions, both the men’s and women’s teams of Chinese Taipei had faced China 36 times. The girls have played against each other more frequently with 26 encounters, but one thing was common: China dominated these matchups.
"I think it is important to let people realize how good the Chinese Taipei women’s basketball team can be in international competitions."
Over these 36 times playing against each other, the average margin of points difference between the two teams was 27.3 points per game in favor of China. For the girls, over their 26 matchups, the average margin of point difference has been even higher at 28.6 per game. There were three occasions where Chinese Taipei lost by at least 50 points and only four games were decided by single digit differences.
Therefore, it would have been understandable if Chinese Taipei’s Chang Yu Lan was intimidated heading into another clash against China at the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2022. And she was.
"I knew it is always not easy to play against China," she said.
"But we keep in faith there is still the opportunity of victory."
Maybe she knew.
Maybe Chang, one of the best young women’s basketball players in Chinese Taipei and Rookie Queen of the High School Basketball League (HBL) back at home, was well aware of youth women’s basketball history in Asia.
Maybe she knew that among those 26 games that Chinese Taipei played against China, one was a win. It happened almost 20 years ago, even before she was born, at the Asian Championship for Junior Women in 2002 when Chinese Taipei won 88-82, but maybe she knew. And that might have been what had given her the faith.
Whatever the case, whether she knew the history of the matchup or not, she became a part of history when she led Chinese Taipei to a monumental win over China, 74-61, on 7 September, 2022.
The First Half
It started out as how many of these games between Chinese Taipei and China started out. China went on a big run that left their opponents in a big hole to dig themselves out of, leading at the end of the first quarter 25-10.
Chinese Taipei could have just folded. China are the defending champions of the U18 Women’s Asian Championship. Actually, they are the five-time defending champions of the competition. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the game continued to proceed as it had in the first quarter.
But Chang and her teammates didn’t give up.
"From the second quarter onwards, we got more and more into the situation on the court, and the whole team started to get the momentum," said Chang.
And the tides started to turn. Chinese Taipei started forcing the ball out of China’s hands. They had 4 steals in the second quarter where they outscored China 21-11, highlighted by a Sung Jui Chen three-pointer before the end of the half.
They were still down 36-31, but Chinese Taipei were feeling it heading into the halftime break.
"We started to rock the room."
"Coach always remind us to start on defense," said Chang of what was emphasized during the game from the coaches. "We always encourage each other that we can do it."
China barely knew what hit them.
Blocked shots, steals, forced turnovers. Chang and her teammates kept China scoreless for almost a full seven minutes to start the half and scored 21 unanswered points to start the third quarter. During that run, Chang did everything with 4 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 1 block.
All heart, no quit! 😳— FIBA Women's Asia Cup (@fibasiacupwomen) September 7, 2022
An incredible 24-0 run powered a historic Chinese Taipei win over China -- the country's first win in 20 years at the youth level over the 5-time defending #FIBAU18Asia champs! 👏
Read more here ➡️ https://t.co/t2cCJAkYf6 pic.twitter.com/9kYHcbvkjQ
There was still plenty of basketball left to be played, but Chinese Taipei seemed to have already dealt the knockout blow. China never backed down as well and tried to fight their way back and while Chinese Taipei didn’t cruise through to the finish line, they still never let their opponents come close to a single-digit deficit.
Of the last 9 points in the game for Chinese Taipei, Chang scored 4 while assisting on the last three-pointer dagger by Yu Chin Hua.
She’d finish the game with 18 points on 8-13 shooting, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in an impressive display of individual talent to highlight a memorable team performance.
Tears were shed through the smiles and hugs between the players. Chang and Hsiao Yu Wen (who has been having a spectacular tournament herself) took control of the Chinese Taipei flag and waved it while running the length of the court in celebration.
"I think it is important to let people realize how good the Chinese Taipei women’s basketball team can be in international competitions," said Chang after the win.
For those who were paying attention, you would have already noticed that there might be something special about this team when they kept it close against Japan in their first game of the competition. Now, after a historic win against China, it’s even more evident how good they are.
There’s now plenty of hope that Chinese Taipei can make it to the Semi-Finals where they would qualify for the U19 Women’s World Cup next year, or maybe even make it to the Final. It would be the first time Chinese Taipei make it to the Final stage… in 20 years, the same year that they had last beaten China.
Who knows? Maybe this could be the year that they win it all for the first time ever.
What everyone should know by now, is that Chinese Taipei are really, really good.
The Future Star
And a part of that is because of having Chang Yu Lan on the team.
She’s one of the biggest stars on the team and stands out with her aggressive style of play. Her all-around performances back at home at the high school basketball scene has been why she’s garnered so much attention.
That’s why she’s been constantly compared to Chinese Taipei women’s basketball legend Chien Wei Chuan - or Rosa Chien - who is widely considered as one of the best ever to play for the national team. It might be tough to replicate the level of success Chien experienced whether it’s 10 Women’s Asia Cup appearances or multiple high-scoring outings at the Women’s World Cup, but there’s a lot to like about the chances of Chang at least headed in the same path.
"It is an honor to give me such credit and push me to continue to improve with some pressure," said Chang of the comparisons.
It certainly is a lot of pressure put on such a young player and with her as a leader of the team in such a significant win in the history of Chinese Taipei basketball, that pressure should only intensify. Nonetheless, Chang Yu Lan is always up for the challenge and she knows that while this win over China is a huge accomplishment for her and Chinese Taipei basketball, there’s always room to do more.
"I am glad and deeply appreciate the recognition," said Chang. "But for my entire career, there are still many things that I have to improve and work on."