NOVI SAD (Serbia) - World No.1 Novi Sad (SRB) once again emerged victorious but were pushed all the way by an impressive NY Harlem (USA) at the inaugural Novi Sad Challenger on May 24-25, 2019.
Here’s what happened.
The winners: Novi Sad (SRB)
After a shock semi-final exit at the Doha Masters last month, Novi Sad are back to their best with Challenger wins in Penang and at home.
With the world’s #1 player Dusan Bulut back in the fold, Novi Sad cruised to victories in the pool stage before raising their game when it mattered most. They gave Zemun a 21-8 beat down in the semi-finals through hot shooting and then prevailed 21-17 over NY Harlem in a thrilling decider in the mecca of 3x3.
Number 1 in fewest turnovers per game
Number 2 in one-point and two-point percentage, and points per game.
Novi Sad are loaded with star players. Everyone contributes. That’s why they are the best in the world. Dejan Majstorovic, the MVP in Penang, continued his hot form and was equal-second highest scorer of the tournament with 35 points.
He had plenty of support with Tamas Ivosev scoring 30 points, while Mr Bullutproof showcased his bag of tricks. But it was Marko Savic who punked opponents averaging 4.4 highlights a game to make home fans more pumped than Drake courtside.
The runners-up: NY Harlem (USA)
The Americans were seeded seventh but had a giant killing run in Novi Sad. The flashy team can be hot or cold but proved their best can beat anybody. They started with a heartbreaking 19-18 loss to 13th seed Sakiai Gulbele (LTU) before an energetic upset victory over third seeds Gagarin (RUS).
NY Harlem had found their groove and continued to enjoy playing the Russians with a quarter-final victory over Sosnovy Bor CopRosatom. But their best was against powerhouse Liman (SRB) with NY Harlem pulling off a pulsating 21-20 victory thanks to Disco Domo Jones' dagger in the hearts of the Serbian fans.
They couldn’t quite replicate that effort in the final but quite clearly made a statement in Serbia.
One-two punch: Disco Domo had his dancing shoes on with a tournament high 39 points and combined dangerously with Marcel Esonwune, who was a bulldozer in the paint shooting at 75% from one point range.
The final: Novi Sad 21- NY Harlem 17
The crowd was louder than at your grandma's hoover, but the Americans were not daunted. Disco Domo put the defenders in a spin cycle as he relentlessly drove to the rim in a tight start.
Novi Sad started to pull away with Savic dropping bombs from downtown to give the home team a 13-9 lead. But NY Harlem wasn't done yet. Kidani Brutus let it fly from another postcode to get the margin down to one point as another thrilling finish loomed.
With the game on the line, Mr Bullutproof is money. He made three layups to get Novi Sad within striking distance and then Ivosev - who had a game high 8 points - finished it off with a fallaway two as the crowd partied like it was New Year's Eve.
The reward: Two tickets to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Mexico City Masters
Novi Sad had already qualified for the third Masters event meaning NY Harlem and Liman won the two tickets.
Riga Ghetto (LAT), Princeton (USA) and Edmonton (CAN) also will play at the Mexico Masters on July 6-7.
1. Novi Sad (SRB)
2. NY Harlem (USA)
3. Liman (SRB)
4. Zemun (SRB)
5. Sosnovy Bor CopRosatom (RUS)
1. Dominique Jones (NY Harlem, USA) 39 pts
2. Stefan Kojic (Liman, SRB) 35 pts
3. Dejan Majstorovic (Novi Sad, SRB) 35 pts
4. Tamas Ivosev (Novi Sad, SRB) 30 pts
5. Mihailo Vasic (Liman, SRB) 25 pts
- NY Harlem were the only non-Serbian team to make it to the semi-finals.
- The five fastest games in the tournament were in the knockout stages led by the quarter-final between Liman and Princeton (5’53” of playing time).
- Liman fell short but Stefan Kojic was sensational with a tournament best 8.8 points per game. He also led the way with 87% from one point range and 47% from beyond the arc.
- Dejan Majstorovic proved why he is 'The Maestro' with a second successive MVP. He averaged 7 points per game and was more clutch than Kawhi with 72% from one pointers and 100% from the free-throw line.
Next Challenger: Tinkoff Moscow Challenger (June7-8)