MACAU -- Liaoning turned what was expected to be a see-saw affair into a ghastly rout as the Flying Leopards manhandled the San Miguel Beermen, 111-89, to barge into the 2019 East Asia Super League Terrific 12 Finals on Saturday at the Tap Seac Stadium.
Imports Lance Stephenson and Salah Mejri stood tall on offense and defense, while the rest of their Chinese teammates chipped in with their outside shooting to complete their march into the championship round.
Liaoning, a semifinalist in the 2019 Chinese Basketball Association season, arranged a winner-take-all title duel with Korean Basketball League's Seoul SK Knights on Sunday at 7 p.m.
"I got great respect for the (San Miguel) team. They played really hard but we played hard and had fun," Stephenson said after the game.
The SK Knights reached the Finals after nosing out Chinese squad Zheijiang Golden Lions behind American import Jameel Warney's game-winning dunk in the other semifinal pairing, 77-76.
The Beermen will try to salvage third place when they face the Golden Lions at 5 p.m.
Stephenson, just a season removed from his LA Lakers stint, set the tone for the one-sided affair after 23 of his game-high 35 points in the opening half. The 29-year-old Stephenson punctuated Liaoning's dominant first half by knocking down a three-pointer at the buzzer to take a 51-30 lead.
Mejri had 12 off the bench in the first half, providing strong inside presence as the Flying Leopards tore the game apart after outscoring the Beermen 25-7 in the pivotal second quarter.
The Tunisian big man went on to finish with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The Beermen sorely missed the presence of top slotman June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter, who are still recovering from injuries.
Meanwhile, Warney emerged as the hero after scoring off a turnover by Zheijiang Golden Lions import Jalen Reynolds in the dying seconds.
Zheijiang still had one last chance to steal the game, but Reynolds' three-point attempt in the final second went short, allowing Seoul SK Knights to escape with the victory.
Warney led the Knights with 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Aaron Haynes, Seoul's other American reinforcement had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with four assists.
Zheijiang, a quarterfinalist in the 2019 Chinese Basketball Association season, were led by Hu Jinqiu's 16 points. Aaron Jackson and Li Jinlong chipped in 12 apiece in a losing effort.
LIAONING FLYING LEOPARDS 111 - Stephenson 35, Mejri 21, S. Gao 14, T. He 13, Z. Liu 9, X. Guo 9, H. Wang 4, M. Cong 3, X. Li 3, Z. Yu
SAN MIGUEL BEER 89- Romeo 19, Wells 16, Prosper 15, Pessumal 11, Cabagnot 9, Standhardinger 8, Nabong 6, Ross 2, Santos 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 0
Quarter scores: 26-23, 51-30, 85-63, 111-88
- Alex Cabagnot and Kelly Nabong played in the Terrific 12 for the first time. Cabagnot missed the group stage play due to flu, while Nabong had to attend to family concerns before flying to Macau last Wednesday.
- Dez Wells couldn't get his rhythm after picking three quick fouls