Piran flex, win third consecutive 3x3 Challenger in Ulaanbaatar
4 Jun 2018
ULAANBAATAR (3x3 Challengers) - Piran (SLO) continued their hot streak by winning their third 3x3 Challenger in 4 weeks after narrowly edging out Melbourne i-Athletic (AUS) 14-12 in the final of the Ulaanbaatar Challenger on June 2-3, 2018.
After taking home 10,000 USD in both Penang and Sydney, the number 4 team in the world collected another 10 grands in Mongolia. They became the first team to win 3 Challengers this season (Liman (SRB) is the only other squad that has won more than 1 (they have 2 titles)).
This title was probably the hardest to get as they ended their 10-game winning streak in their opener against Moskva (RUS). After that they won 3 nail-biters against Saskatoon (CAN) (12-11), Novi Sad (SRB) (18-14) and Melbourne i-Athletic (AUS) (14-12).
It was the second time in a row Piran and Melbourne met in a Challenger Final. Unlike what happened in Sydney 2 weeks earlier (when the Australians played the entire second day without a sub), the game was competitive. The score was tied at 9, 10, 11 and 12, with just 1 minute to go after another beautiful post move, courtesy of tournament top scorer Thomas Garlepp (Melbourne).
But with 35 seconds left, MVP Anze Srebovt bullied his way to the basket. Piran pushed up their defensive intensity and Gasper Ovnik stole the ball. With less than 2 seconds to go, Simon Finzgar finished the game from the line.
Both teams won a ticket to the Kuala Lumpur Masters. This amounts to 5 passes to the World Tour this season for the Slovenians (Mexico City and Prague based on ranking plus India, Kuala Lumpur and Utsunomiya via Challengers). Melbourne will have a chance to avenge their 2 losses against Piran both at Kuala Lumpur and Utsunomiya.
The lineup for the Kuala Lumpur Masters starts to take shape with 6 participants now confirmed. Besides Piran and Melbourne i-Athletic, Zemun (SRB) and Kranj (SLO) [based on ranking], Princeton (USA) and Liman (SRB) have already stamped their ticket to Malaysia.
Seven of the Top 23 teams in the world and a total of 16 teams from 9 different countries competed at the Ulaanbaatar Challenger.
The next Challengers will be held in Hangzhou, China and Limassol, Cyprus on June 16-17, just after the FIBA 3x3 World Cup.
The event was also an interesting preview of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup as Piran (1st), Novi Sad (3rd) and Moskva (5th) featured the core of the Slovenian, Serbian and Russian national teams, which will be the top 3 seeds at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup on June 8-12, 2018.
1. Piran (SLO) 2. Melbourne i-Athletic (AUS) 3. Novi Sad (SRB) 4. Ulaanbaatar (MGL) 5. Moskva (RUS)