JEJU (Korea) - Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) stunned the field and won their first-ever 3x3 Challenger ain Jeju on October 5-6, 2019.
Here's what happened.
The winners: Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL)
They were: Equal No.1 in blocks and fifth in points per game.
The No.7 seeds were the surprise packets in Jeju with a memorable run that looked highly unlikely after they suffered a big 21-10 opening loss against NY Harlem (USA).
The Mongolians only squeezed by Inje (KOR) 21-18 to qualify out of the pool stage before turning it on when it mattered most.
They were underdogs against Zemun (SRB) in the quarter-finals and looked down and out trailing 8-2. But Delgernyam Davaasambuu started heating up and Ulaanbaatar came roaring back to ensure this went down to the wire.
Led by Davaasambuu's 13 points, Ulaanbaatar scored the last four points to pull off an incredible 17-16 victory. Their mental toughness showed in a hard-fought 14-12 semi-final victory over Neva COP-Nokian and then a 13-10 win over Piran in the final.
Davaasambuu proved Ulaanbaatar’s hero with a tournament leading 39 points.
The runner's up: Piran (SLO)
The Saskatoon Masters champs have had a dip in form recently, so their efforts in Jeju were desperately needed. Much like Ulaanbaatar, Piran had to struggle through the early stages before beating Vrbas (SRB) 19-14 in the quarters.
But their best performance was a memorable overtime 15-14 semi-final upset over red-hot NY Harlem, who appeared set to once again roll through a Challenger event.
But Gasper Ovnik was cool from the line to deliver a win for the ages even though Piran eventually fell short of the title.
Slovenian masters: Ovnik and fellow superstar Simon Finzgar were once again brilliant to power Piran close to glory. Ovnik schooled opponents to finish the second highest scorer of the tournament with 31 points, while Finzgar performed his usual magic tricks. He was No.1 in highlights with 23 overall to be a firm fan favorite in Korea.
The Final: Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy 13-Piran 10
Both teams had to fight their way through to the decider, so you knew this would be a dogfight. Buckets were hard to get, especially with Tserenbaatar Enkhtaivan patrolling the rim with authority.
Ulaanbaatar wisely decided to drive to the rim for easy buckets and they skipped out to a big 8-2 lead.
The Mongolians must have been thinking they were finally on track for a comfortable victory but, of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. Playing with pride, Piran came roaring back with Ovnik and Finzgar attacking the rack to slice the deficit.
Piran leveled the scores with two minutes left when Ovnik dazzled inside the paint with fancy foot work. But as they showed all tournament, Ulaanbaatar thrive under pressure and they scored three straight points to settle the nerves.
Fittingly it was Davaasambuu who delivered the dagger as Ulaanbaatar celebrated a memorable title in the last Challenger event of the season.
The reward: Two tickets to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Jeddah Masters
As Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy were already qualified for Jedda, Neva COP-Nokian (RUS)and Piran join world No.2 Liman (SRB), world No.3 Riga Ghetto (LAT), Sakiai Gulbele (LTU), Tokyo Dime (JPN), Utsunomiya (JPN), Taikhar ARA ADM (MGL), Balanga Chooks (PHI), Lyon (FRA), Shanghai SSLC (CHN) and North Jakarta Pertamina (INA) to have booked spots for Jeddah on October 18-19.
1. Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL)
2. Piran (SLO)
3. Neva COP-Nokian (RUS)
4. NY Harlem (USA)
5. Sosnovy Bor CopRosatom (RUS)
1. Delgernyam Davaasambuu (Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy, MGL) 39 pts
2. Gašper Ovnik (Piran, SLO) 31 pts
3. Kidani Brutus (NY Harlem, USA) 27 pts
4. Dmitrii Kriukov (Neva COP-Nokian, RUS) 26 pts
5. Shalva Shatashvili (Neva COP-Nokian, RUS) 23 pts
- No.7 seeds Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) and No.11 seeds Neva COP-Nokian were the big surprise packets and finished in the top 3.
- Piran's classic semi-final victory over in-form NY Harlem was the longest game of the tournament (14'36" of playing time).
- NY Harlem's Marcel Esonwune was once again dominant in the air and finished the overall leader in rebounds and blocks.
- Neva COP-Nokian's magical run was fueled by Dmitrii Kriukov and Shalva Shatashvili who combined for 49 points. Both were lethal from one-point range with Kriukov shooting 70%, while Shatashvili connected at 65%.