KAOHSIUNG CITY (Taiwan) - NY Harlem (USA) survived a scare from giant killers New York City (USA) to take out the Kaohsiung City Challenger on September 21-22, 2019.
Here’s what happened.
The winners: NY Harlem (USA)
Number 1 in points against per game and rebounds, and Number 2 in points per game.
NY Harlem have made a resounding statement this season and risen to No.4 on the world rankings. Playing without their star player Dominique Jones did not stop the New Yorkers, who overcame a slow Day 1 where they were challenged by Kaohsiung (TPE) and New York City.
But NY Harlem have a knack of lifting their game when in matters most and they delivered scintillating performances against Pasig Chooks (PHI) in the quarters and red hot Sakiai Gulbele (LTU) in the semis.
Their experience proved too much in the final as they narrowly beat inner-city rivals New York City for the second time.
Even without Jones, NY Harlem had too much firepower with Kidani Brutus topping the scoring overall and Joey King finishing third. The team's athleticism menaced on the defensive end to make it difficult for opponents to score.
The Lausanne Masters champions have simply become a powerhouse in 3x3.
The runners-up: New York City (USA)
The No.10 seeds proved to be the surprise packets after a memorable run. They only qualified out of the pool stage after beating Kaohsiung in a thriller but that win seemed to lift New York City's confidence.
They thrashed a shorthanded Edmonton (CAN) in the quarters and then produced the biggest upset of the tournament with a memorable 21-20 victory over No.2 seeds Vrbas (SRB).
New York City looked dead and buried trailing 20-17 but produced an incredible comeback win when Pawel Buczak called game before the time limit.
Brilliant Buczak: Pawel Buczak was clutch for the New Yorkers and finished as the second leading scorer overall. He scored 10 points in the quarters and then overcame a slow start against Vrbas to score the final two points to seal a win for the ages.
The Final: NY Harlem 16-New York City 14
In the battle of the Big Apple, this was always going to be a dogfight. NY Harlem's dynamic duo Kidani Brutus and Joey King were rolling early as the No.1 seeds stormed out to a four-point lead.
New York City's main scorer Pawel Buczak started to get into his groove down low but NY Harlem had the answers.
King went on a solo four-point run to blow the game open and NY Harlem appeared to have the title in the bag with a sizable 16-8 lead. The only interest left was whether they could win under the time limit and if a red hot King could score double figures.
Out of nowhere, New York City came back and NY Harlem suddenly went ice cold. A Ben Hazel two-piece reduced the margin to three points with 21 seconds left but a missed two from Roy Knutson seconds later sealed the deal.
NY Harlem survived to claim another title but New York City also walked away feeling satisfied.
The reward: Two tickets to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Nanjing Masters
NY Harlem and New York City join Riga Ghetto (LAT) and Team Amsterdam (NED) to have qualified for Nanjing on October 12-13.
1. NY Harlem (USA)
2. New York City (USA)
3. Vrbas (SRB)
4. Sakiai Gulbele (LTU)
5. Edmonton (CAN)
1. Kidani Brutus (NY Harlem, USA) 36 pts
2. Pawel Buczak (New York City, USA) 34 pts
3. Joey King (NY Harlem, USA) 33 pts
4. Strahinja Stojacic (Vrbas, SRB) 31 pts
- Ivan Popovic (Vrbas, SRB) 31 pts
- No.3 seeds Edmonton were the only top four seed to fail making the semi-finals.
- The semi-final between NY Harlem and Sakiai Gulbele was much hyped but ended up one-sided and the eighth fastest game of the tournament (7’27” of playing time).
- Vrbas fell short but Strahinja Stojacic and Ivan Popovic did all they could averaging a tournament-high 7.8 points per game each.
- Pawel Buczak was unstoppable inside and finished second on the scoring charts with 34 points, including an overall best 79% on one-pointers. He also led in blocks with six rejections.
Next Challenger: Seoul Challenger (September 28-29)