We finally have our semi-finalists for the Seri Mutiara Cup 2017 after the action in Day 3!
Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Day 3
Game 1: Guangzhou Long Lions (China) vs Fubon Braves (Chinese Taipei)
After two straight losses, the defending champions certainly wanted this win to save some faces going up the upstart Braves who had willed themselves an impressive overtime win the previous night.
The Long Lions and the Braves were not settling for long range shots to start the game, driving to the teeth of the defense from the get go. The two teams piled up on fouls and the Braves suffered from the consequences when Garret Siler picked up his second personal foul only 3 minutes into the game. Both teams came out on fire shooting over 60% leading to a high-scoring first quarter which Guangzhou held the lead 26-24.
The sharpshooting continued in the second quarter with Kao Chien Yi and James Tucker going at each other shot for shot. Tucker came alive in the second quarter, pouring in 10 points to keep the Long Lions ahead. Both teams kept pulling out different offensive weapons and kept the defense on the tip of their toes. Ray Chen dropped a corner three with the clock winding down to give the Long Lions a 53-47 lead at halftime where all but 2 of the 18 fielded players scored at least 1 field goal. Both teams were still scoring at a high percentage, but the Braves suffered from being able to convert only 50% of their 16 free throws.
Fubon didn’t start the third quarter well with Siler picking up his 4th personal foul in the first minute. However, it was a crucial stretch of the game so Coach Hsu Chin Che decided to leave Siler in the game.
“We have a good relationship,” Siler said after the game. “Coach trusts me. I know that I’m still getting my self in better and better shape as far as the season goes. But we have a good trust with each other and I didn’t want to let me team down. I wanted to do the best to play smart because I want to win no matter what.”
Siler responded to his coaches trust and dropped in 10 points after going scoreless in the first half. It was the perfect storm for the Braves who got back to tie the game at 70-70 off a reverse lay-up by Tsai Wen Cheng. Guangzhou responded to douse the Braves fire with a 7-0 run to hold on to their advantage. The Braves got in a three-pointer to keep things close before the end of the third quarter, trailing 73-77.
Fubon continued to hang along with Guangzhou with hustle plays early in the fourth quarter. However, the Long Lions continued to make timely baskets to disrupt whatever momentum the Braves gained. Everytime the Braves closed in, it just seemed like the Long Lions had been preparing the perfect response, whether it was a drive by James Tucker or a wide open corner three following sweet ball movement. With less than 3 minutes left in the game, the Braves finally got ahead with a free throw from John Bohannon. The Long Lions would not have a response for the Braves this time. Things would get worse for the Long Lions when Garret Siler converted a three-point play giving the Braves their biggest lead of the game, 92-88.
Guangzhou’s young big man Fan Ziming came up huge with two big boy baskets in the paint to tie the game up at 92-92. Fubon were once again pitted in a situation similar to last night’s close game against K.K. Split.
The Braves had the possession with the game clock winding down, but were unable to covert when Garret Siler rimmed out a dunk. This left the Long Lions inbounding the ball with 6.3 seconds left to put in the final dagger.
Ray Chen missed the initial attempt, but Wang Yue got the offensive rebound and draw the foul to get to the line with only 0.5 second left.
Yue sank the front end of the pressure free throw and intentionally missed the second to run down the clock and claim the exciting win.
“This is the first time this year we’re joining an international tournament and [my team] showed the spirit in the game,” Coach Cui Wan Jun said after the game. “We think this was the exiting game and we left deep impression with the fans. We don think its only about winning or losing.”
“This game we did well controliing turnovers. The best of all three games actually.”
“We cherish the opportunity to have played against these teams.”
The Long Lions had all of their players get on the scoreboard, something Coach Wan Jun was very pleased about.
“We had the opportunity to play in this tournament and we wanted all our players to get better,” Coach sais. “and to play all the players at the right time. Also, we wanted to work harder to communicate between each other and we worked hard for the best option. It’s not about who can score a lot on this team.”
It was a devastating loss for the Braves who dropped all the way to the bottom of the group. They showed the fans who watched them that this was a team that would never back down and fought to the last second.
“This is a family.” Siler said of his team’s Never Say Die mentality. “Especially with this team, with Coach, with all the players. We play together, we fight together, and as you see at the end of the game, we fight like brothers. We all wanted to win. We all want to get better but you want to fight. You live and die for your brothers as a family.”
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted at the end of this game, but we can always say that we gave it our all.”
Player of the Game: James Tucker
15 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 steals
Tucker went along quietly with another stat stuffing game as he gets more familiar with his team. He made plenty of momentum killing shots to ice the Braves.
Game 2: NS Matrix (Malaysia) vs K.K. Split (Croatia)
Both teams had already secured a semi-finals spot, but still played for the top spot in the group in this game.
Mike Scott and Pavle Marcinkovic carried with offense for Split in the first quarter, combining for 19 points to give their side the edge over the home team. Explosive scorer Keith Hornsby struggled in the first quarter for NS Matrix, but Bryson Fonsville was on target with 6 points to keep NS Matrix from being down by double digits. Sharpshooting Split owned the first quarter with a 26-17 lead.
Split had rested their stars for most of the first quarter, but brought in Mate Kalajsic to upstart the offense in the following period. Viernes pumped in some life for NS Matrix with 5 points to start the second quarter and after some solid defensive plays by Jaleel Roberts, NS Matrix finally regained the lead 34-33 midway past the second quarter. Ivan Omrcen struggled to stay in front of Fonsville, who scored 10 points in the quarter by slicing and dicing his way inside for fancy layups. Split later subbed in Mateo Kedzo after sitting him in the first quarter and the grizzled veteran responded with an assault of turnaround baseline jumpers and pretty passes to keep Split up at halftime, 46-43.
Pavle Marcinkovic continued to be his team’s steady offensive contributor, dropping two clean three-point shots to open the second half. KK Split started to build up a lead, but it was the hot hand Fonsville who led the charge for NS Matrix back into the gam once again. Star scorer Keith Hornsby had been struggling to connect on his shots so far in the game so instead shifted to penetrating and getting to the basket more in the second half. Even with that shift, KK Split were still up in the lead operating smoothly on offense for easy baskets. NS Matrix dazzled with fastbreak dunks and fancy crossovers to score, but KK Split always found a way to counter an silence the home crowd.
NS Matrix tied the game up again in the closing moments of the 3rd quarter on a three-point shot by John Avila, but Mate Kalajsic answered on the other end with a difficult three of his own to keep Split up ahead 72-69.
“It’s easy when you have 4 older players guiding you and showing you what to do on the court.” The young Kalajsic says of how he stays composed in tight late game situations.
Tension built up in the final quarter of this close game as Jaleel Roberts tangled with Filip Najev to start the action. NS Matrix started pushing the pace once again and closed in to a one point deficit before Mateo Kedzo drained a corner three and drowned out the momentum of the Malaysian crowd. Split gained control of the game once again after a monster block by Najev on Fonsville followed plays later by a breakaway dunk be Marcinkovic pushing the lead to 84-78 with 6 minutes left. NS Matrix still woudn’t back down and took the lead on a 7-0 run with Fonsville scoring his 28th point on a reverse layup.
It was looking to be another close game with the two teams taking turns holding on to the lead almost every possession.
With the score tied at 90, KK Split got a huge three point from Marcinkovic which started a 11-0 run heading into the final minute of the game.
The big run was the knock-out punch for Split, who claimed the victory over previously undefeated NS Matrix and clinched the top spot of Group B 102-93.
“The game was excellent for the audience,” Assistant Coach Ante Gregurevic said. “But basketball-wise, it was a game without defense.”
“We played defense but that’s not the way we should play. For the serious, next-level basketball, we have to play tougher defense. It’s difficult to win games, at least against those teams when you allow almost 100 points.”
“We were lucky with our shots. We were lucky that they didn’t play good defense.”
“After all, they are tired. We are tired. Every team is tired. This is the third game in a row and [NS Matrix] didn’t have a big rotation. They basically have five players playing all the time and that was a good point for us. For us, it was very important to win because yesterday we had terrible game. Not a bad game a terrible game.
“After this confidence is brought back and we are looking forward to the Semi-finals.”
“In a tournament like this when you have two, three, four games in a row,” Coach Gregurevic emphasizes. “It’s very important to have a big rotation because you need time to rest. It’s not easy for the players. Physically and mentally, its very difficult.”
Despite the loss and losing the top spot of the group to K.K Split, NS Matrix’s head coach was still positive of the outcome.
“Basically, you can see in the game the other team was very strong and played hard,” Coach Brian Lester said. “They shot the ball really well. Better than I’ve seen in the previous games so from our point of view, we think that they had a good shooting game.”
“I was very pleased with our players. They gave 100% effort and the character of the players that we have this year are at a very high level. They’re professional players, they take care of themselves, they fit in with the team, but most importantly they work hard and they give their best. I couldn’t be more proud of our players tonight.”
NS Matrix worked with a short rotation again in this game, but Coach Lester is confident that the right calls were made aiming towards a victory.
“It’s not easy thats for sure,” Coach Lester said when asked about his rotation. “The starters had to play more minutes than we should ask them to play but the difference level between the import players and our local players is a lot.”
“Again, we were in the game. We were very close. We could have made one or two baskets coming down the stretch the last 3-5 minutes and I think the game would have been a lot different. But the shots just weren’t dropping and it’s really as simple as that.”
“We’d love to give our local players more time but the gap between our imports and the locals is so great there just isn’t a way to do it.”
Player of the Game: Mate Kalajsic
18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Kalajsic was a steady conductor for KK Split once again in this game and made multiple gutsy baskets to push his team to the win.
Game 3: Kano Pillars (Nigeria) vs Changwon LG Sakers (Korea)
The Pillars didn’t have much to play for anymore, but the Sakers needed this win to stay in contention for the semi-finals spot.
Kim Jong Kyu was aggresive from the start and exploded for a high-flying two handed flush early in the first quarter. The Sakers played solid defense and created transition baskets to get out to on a 10 point run where the Pillars were held scoreless for 5 minutes. It turned in a 25-10 lead at the end of the first quarter for the Sakers after Bae Byungjun made a last second fastbreak layup. Hard enough as it would be for the Pillars to overcome a Sakers team that was shooting 53% in the first quarter, the fact that they were shooting only 18% themselves didn’t help by much.
The second quarter was pretty much the same story and the Sakers saw their lead grow to 20 points at 38-18 after a thundering tomahawk dunk by Justin Tubbs. The athletic forward continued to dazzle and produce after sitting down the entire first quarter. He ended the first half on a high-note with a hanging double-clutch layup putting the Sakers up 50-26. Eli Abraham boosted the Pillars with 13 points in the second quarter, but they still weren’t able to figure out how to defend the Sakers who shot 68.8%.
The Pillars started the second half energetically with an 8-3 run, but the Sakers didn’t stumble and quickly gathered themselves. Justin Tubbs came back on the court and showed his leaping ability with another spectacular slam which boosted another Sakers run. The Korean squad’s lead had now grown to 77-48 at the end of three quarters.
With the game all but decided with the Sakers holding an 85-62 lead, Park In Tae collided after a defensive rebound and had to helped up to get off the floor. With the Semi-Finals coming up in two days and the local KBL starting soon, this was not ideal for the Sakers team plans. In the end, the Sakers secured a win over the Pillars 90-69 to clinch a trip to the Semi-finals match up with KK Split.
“I’m not sure how he is yet,” Justin Tubbs said of In Tae’s injury after the game. “We haven’t got a report on what’s going on but I know he’s a vital part of the team and we really need him.”
“he’s very athletic and his athleticism is very sneaky. You don’t expect him to go out and be explosive but he’ll surprise you. His talents will be missed if we have to miss him for a game, the tournament, or for any part of the season.”
“Our goal coming was to win and build team chemistry,” Tubbs said of the win. “That’s our main focus and that feel good to win in the process.”
Tubbs displayed his otherworldly athleticism, but he also mentions other parts of his game to look out for.
“I think sometimes my defense goes unnoticed being able to guard multiple positions. People tend to focus only on the offense.”
“My coachability as well, which is a big deal and the overall attitude. You know some guys that are hard to work with. It’s just my personality from being a coach a pleaser a team mate pleaser.”
With the Slam Dunk competition also coming up, Tubbs seemed eager to show off his stuff should he be cleared.
“I’m coming back off an injury and it’s only my second time to play. We’re going to see what the team doctor says. I’m not sure if they will want me to participate but if they do, I’ll show you some cool dunks.
Player of the Game: Justin Tubbs
15 Points, 4 rebounds, 4 Assist
Tubbs always brought in an offensive boost whenever he took the court and it was a big factor in the Sakers building up their big lead.
Game 4: Link Tochigi Brex (Japan) vs Beijing BRBC (China)
Tochigi Brex needed a win to keep their hopes of advancing alive and they started off with great ball movement ending up in an early 9-5 lead. In a match up of two superstar guards, it was Yuta Tabuse who stole the spotlight over Stephon Marbury with highlight reel worthy passes and crossovers. Ryan Rossiter led the way for the Brex, not only with his 11 first quarter points but also being the one to set up the team’s half court offense. Tochigi Brex held on to a convincing 24-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Kyle Richardson scored two baskets instantly after substituting into the game off two beautiful passes from Cedric Bozeman and Shusuke Ikuhara. The Brex’s lead would pile up even further after Ikuhara drilled a three-point shot to make it 31-18. Beijing needed a jolt of energy to get back in the game and they got it from Shavlik Randolph who emphatically blocked a baseline dunk attempt by Cedric Bozeman. Randoplph rushed down the other end to work in the post and got himself two more points.
That wouldn’t be enough to slow down the Brex when Yuta Tabuse came back on the court. The former NBA player dazed the defense and ended with a high-looping floater and followed that up with a classic midrange jumpshot to give the Brex a 37-25 lead.
However, the fouls that Tochigi Brex had collected were showing their effects when Beijing started attacking more aggressively to get to the free throw line. The two teams went back and forth during the final two minutes before the first half buzzer sounded with Tochigi Brex leading 42-35.
The second half didn’t start so well for Bejing. Not only did they give up a 7-0 run, Shavlik Randolph had to leave the floor following an injury. Randolph returned to the court shortly after, but Beijing were still struggling to close out on the Brex’s shooters. Beijing mounted another comeback run, cutting it down to 56-53 after a three-pointer by Randolph. Rossiter replied with a three point shot of his own and a breakaway dunk to get Brex back in control, 61-53. Before the third quarter ended, Cedric Bozeman wasted no time after being subbed in to add three points making the score 64-55.
Bozeman continued to add to his talley to start the final quarter with 4 quick points to get Brex’s lead back to double digits. Beijing slowly creeped back to within 5 points halfway through the fourth quarter and got a huge opportunity to gain even more momentum when Kosuke Takeuchi was called for a techincal foul. They weren’t able to capitalize on the chance and Tochigi pounced back with two straight baskets from Seiji Ikaruga and Shuhei Kitagawa.
Missed opportunities piled up and the lead was too much for Beijing to overcome in the final minutes. The Brex came away with an 83-73 win.
Tochigi Brex’s win gave them a record of 2 wins and 1 loss, creating a three-way tie with Beijing BRBC and Changwon LG Sakers. After compiling the results, it turns out that the Brex’s win was not big enough to get them to the semi-finals. Beijing edged the Sakers slightly on a head-to-head advantage for the top spot in the group.
Player of the Game: Ryan Rossiter
31 Points, 19 rebounds, 4 Assists
Rossiter was the golden boy in this game and whenever he touched the ball, good things happened for the Brex. It wasn’t enough to get the Brex into the Semi-Finals, but his outstanding performance showed why the Brex have maintained him as an import throughout all these years.
Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Day 3 MVP
Ryan Rossiter, Link Tochigi Brex
It’s not absurd to say that the Brex were underdogs coming into the game against Beijing BRBC, but Rossiter played an outstanding game to help his team pull off the victory.