After splitting games on Day 1 (including a 17-16 loss against Liman), the US national champs went off in the knock-out rounds. They beat three Top 8 teams in a row, including the #1 squad in the world in the semi-finals (Novi Sad) and the #2 in the final (Liman).
The title game was a nail-biter. No team would ever take a 4-point lead. With Princeton up 20-19, it was fitting that the 6ft 8in (2.04m) Kareem Maddox took his responsibilities, drove to the basket, drew a foul and finished the game from the line.
The 28-year-old 3x3 rookie was a joint top scorer in Huaian (tied with Liman’s Stefan Stojacic) and took home the MVP trophy.
It was Princeton’s first-ever title on the 3x3 pro circuit. With this win, they not only put 10,000 USD in the bag but also secured a ticket to the Kuala Lumpur Masters, their 3rd World Tour spot already this season (after qualifying to the Mexico City and Saskatoon Masters).
Despite losing in the final, Liman achieved their goal of qualifying for their 4th Masters this year (Chengdu, Kuala Lumpur, Prague and Utsunomiya).
The early season struggles continued for former World Tour winners Novi Sad (SRB) – finished 3rd and failed to secure an extra World tour ticket for the 3rd time in a row – and Ljubljana (SLO), who didn’t even make it out of the pools.
On the bright side, Moscow Inanomo (RUS) continued to impress, making it from the qualifying draw to the knock-out rounds for the 3rd time in a row (2nd in Nanjing, 5th in Wuxi and 6th in Huaian). The young Ljubljana East team (SLO) achieved their best result ever on the pro circuit with a surprise 4th place finish.
There will be 2 more challengers this weekend (May 19-20) with the Moscow Open Challenger in Russia and the Sydney Challenger in Australia.
Interestingly, 5 different teams have won the first 5 Challengers of the season (Saskatoon (CAN), Riga (LAT), Piran (SLO), Liman (SRB) and Princeton (USA)).
Final Standings: 1. Princeton (USA) 2. Liman (SRB) 3. Novi Sad (SRB) 4. Ljubljana East (SLO) 5. Belgrade (SRB)