It was a Finals worth waiting for in the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017 between Beijing BRBC and K.K. Split but in the end only one team could take home the title as the curtains closed. Here’s a wrap up of all the action!
Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017: Final Day
3rd Place Ranking Game: NS Matrix (Malaysia) vs Changwon LG Sakers (Korea)
The meaning between the 3rd and 4th place ranking in the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup might not have a significant meaning, but I doubt that neither team would have wanted to end the competition with a loss.
The Sakers rested their regular starters in today’s game, but the subs played hard to show that they derserved their starting spots. In a surprising beginning to the game, Jung Chang Young nailed a three-pointer from the corner to give the Sakers and early 10-2 lead. A couple of minutes later, Chang Young got the exact same shot, only to be emphatically rejected by Jaleel Roberts who now sparked NS Matrix back into the game. Bryson Fonville and Jeff Viernes were on fire, combining for 15 points in the last 5 minutes of the first quarter to get NS Matrix back into the lead. The two teams rushed out offensively to end the quarter in a high scoring 30-25 affair with NS Matrix taking the lead.
Leading the way for the Sakers was Ki Seung Ho who was having an efficient 13-point game on 6/9 shooting. NS Matrix were still riding on the momentum of their diminutive duo of Fonville and Viernes who had scored 13 and 15 points respectively in the half. The difference between the two teams at this point was how efficient they were in converting turnovers into points. The Sakers had forced 9 turnovers and turning that to 17 points in their favor while NS Matrix only got 5 points from three turnovers. Even with the Sakers resting their stars, they still managed to hold a 52-49 lead over NS Matrix at the end of the first half.
The Sakers continued to raise hell in the open court against NS Matrix, pressuring the ball on defense and pushing the pace. Jeong Seung Woo was a disruptive force pushing the ball at top speed everytime he got the ball and dishing it out to the right guy every single time. NS Matrix usually enjoyed playing at such a frantic pace but after 4 games in 5 days, the starters of Matrix seemed just a tad bit slower than the Sakers upstart second string. In a third quarter where the Sakers seemingly couldn’t do anything wrong, they exploded for 33 points en route to an 85-69 lead when the buzzer sounded. Seung Woo was doing everything right, already having racked up 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Sakers slowed down the pace but didn’t let that effect their offensive efficiency by too much. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Sakers were still up big, 93-78, but NS Matrix were trying to pick up the pace. However, Matrix’s star scorers had used up most of their energy in the game against Beijing BRBC the other day and Coach Brian Lester finally decided to give them a breather. The final minutes of the game whittled away slowly as the Sakers put on the finishing touches to their 103-82 win. It was a game that really displayed the spirit of the Sakers as a whole from the starters down to the twelfth man.
Player of the Game: Jeong Seung Woo
14 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal
Seung Woo had shined in the earlier games as the pace-changing back up guard as well as the lockdown perimeter defender. The Sakers were able to let Seung Woo loose a bit in this game and we got to see a lot more of what he could do. Seung Woo excelled with his usual defensive effort, but also shined with his spectacular playmaking.
Championship Game: Beijing BRBC (China) vs K.K. Split (Croatia)
Even going up against a physically imposing K.K. Split team, Beijing BRBC still had the size advantage evident by the Chinese club’s first two points coming from gargantuan center Zheng Wang. Split’s steady shooting and superb ball rotation kept them going as it had been throughout the whole tournament. They closed in to trail 15-14 after a marvellous dish from Mate Kalajsic to Mario Spaleta for a slam. The quarter ended 16-16 with the crowd roaring over Henrik Sirko’s ridiculous (almost) full-court shot that was released way after the buzzer had sounded.
The shot must have ignited a fire inside for the two sides, as they came out more aggressively and ran their offenses more smoothly. Neither team gave an inch to each other and after a solid 5 minutes, the two teams were still knotted up at 28-28. K.K. Split started to breakaway after consecutive baskets from Kalajsic and Mike Scott started a 7-0 run. Beijing BRBC responded to tie the game with a 7 point run of their own, but Scott stopped the momentum with a three-point shot for KK Split. With time in the first half winding down, Sirko got his hands on another clutch shot. This time he would make the layup on time to put another two points on the board for K.K. Split. The Croatians held a 40-35 lead over Beijing BRBC with only one more half left to decide the Seri Mutiara Cup 2017 Champions.
Shavlik Randolph had a quiet first half, but was finally waking up as the team started getting passes to him in the post. Zaid Abbas joined in on the rally, combining with Randolph for a 10-2 run to Beijijng a 48-46 lead. Despite losing the lead and the momentum, K.K. Split held their composure and the two teams were again exchanging shot for shot as the time in the quarter died down. The two finalists of the Seri Mutiara Cup 2017 headed into the final 10 minutes of regulation separated by a single point, Beijing BRBC up ahead 57-56. The third quarter was the perfect timing for Beijing’s offense to kick in, going 8-11.
Beijing continued to control the tempo of the game by sending Wang back in to pressure the K.K. Split defense to collapse into the paint. The flow of the game clearly shifted towards Beijing BRBC after a layup by Zaid Abbas put them up 72-64 with just under 5 minutes to go. K.K. Split’s offense sputtered in the final minutes as they attempted another push, but got some life back in them from two three pointers by Sirko to get within 77-73. After unsuccessful desperation attempts by K.K. Split, Beijing BRBC were finally able to seal the deal 80-73.
Player of the Game: Zaid Abbas
17 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals
The official announcement for the MVP of the tournament was Chin Min Yang (who deserved the award as well) but Abbas quietly did a little bit of everything to get his team over the hump in this final victory. His near triple-double was evident of his contributions, but it was his baskets that came in crucial situations that shifted the flow of the game.
Best Five of the Seri Mutiara Champions Cup 2017
Mate Kalajsic (K.K. Split) : 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists
Shavlik Randolph (Beijing BRBC): 23.3 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Keith Hornsby (NS Matrix): 35.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Kim Jong Kyu (Changwon LG Sakers): 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Chin Min Yang (Beijing BRBC): 11.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists
There was certainly no doubt that Keith Hornsby would be on this list, especially with his 47-point performance in the very first game of the tournament. Hornsby maintained his reputation as one of the best scorers of the tournament, yet fatigue and player scouting might have slowed him down a bit in the latter stages.
Kim Jong Kyu was a crowd-favorite not only for this looks but for his multiple thunderous dunks for the third place Changwon LG Sakers. His length, size, and speed combined to make him one of the most important pieces of the Sakers along side Josh Powell and Justin Tubbs.
The official tournament MVP was Chin Min Yang. While I personally think that another certain player might have been more “valuable” (read on a little bit more to find out who it is!), Yang was a steady contributor to Beijing BRBC’s offense. He made shots when it counted and could score both from behind the three-point arc and penetrating the hoop.
Mate Kalajsic might not have been an explosive scorer but he was surely the engine running the game for K.K. Split. He had multiple flashes of elite playmaking that drew ooh and ahs from the crowd, looking composed beyond his age most of the time.
Finally, the player who I felt most deserved the Most Valuable Player was none other than the former NBA player of Beijing BRBC,
Stephon Marbury Shavlik Randolph! Randolph was a master on offense and a headache for any defender assigned to stop him. He exhibited why he once led the CBA in scoring with his skills combination of a stretch-4 who could bang and bruise inside. Because he was such a big contributor on offense, his defense on the opposing team’s big men also went severely underrated.
Most Entertaining Players Of Seri Mutiara Cup 2017
Keith Hornsby, NS Matrix
Hornsby is just one of those players who is so fun to watch when they start heating up. You can almost feel a “combo meter” filling up every time he scores and when the “meter” fills up, you just sort of unconsciously expect something spectacular to happen every time he touches the ball.
Mate Kalajsic, K.K. Split
Kalajsic wasn’t a flashy ball-handler but his passing was so aesthetically pleasing. You couldn’t help by love his pinpoint passing, threading the needle to a cutting player or a cross court pass on the drive to the corner three.
Jeong Seuong Woo, Changwon LG Sakers
The two players mentioned above are on the list for the offense, but Seuong Woo is here for his tenacious defense. The jitterbug guard had one of the quickest feet I’ve ever seen and kept up with all of the top guards in the competition, making their lives a living hell. When he got his chance to unload on offense, Seong Woo also showed that he was a delightful playmaker as well.
Henrik Sirko, K.K. Split
Sirko was on and off the court for the first few games, but got healthy enough to play in the playoffs. The Croatian star was a sensation for his uncanny way of finding a way to score. Sirko is combination of top-notch shooting with a quirky off-foot away-from-the-basket jumper complete with sneaky athleticism. It’s a shame that we only got to see him in full action for a couple of games.
Justin Tubbs, Changwon LG Sakers
It’s also a shame that we didn’t get to see Justin Tubbs in the Slam Dunk Contest because he showed us may spectacular in game dunks throughout the entire tournament. Tubbs was so entertaining purely because his athleticism made you anticipate what he would do every time he got the ball. And most of the time, he didn’t disappoint.
Jeff Viernes, NS Matrix
Trying to not sound too cliche, Viernes was almost always the smallest player on the court but played with the biggest heart. In the past, Viernes has been the first or second scoring option on his team. However, with so many high-level scorers on his team, Viernes stepped back into a supporting role and still flourished. He won the heart of the fans with his daredevil style of play and his spirit.
Joseph Lin (Fubon Braves) & Ray Chen (Guangzhou Long Lions)
Sure, Lin and Chen are both very skilled players… but the reason they are on this list is for their beautiful hair.