BELGRADE (Serbia) - Zemun (SRB) won their 2nd Challenger of the season after defeating their fellow countrymen from Novi Sad in the final of the Belgrade 3x3 Challenger on July 13-14, 2019.
The World Tour 2017 winners won one of the most loaded Challengers of the season and gave the number 1 team in the world an L once again in front of a huge crowd and countless VIPs, including FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 silver medalist and current NBA player Nemanja Bjelica. Here's how it played out:
The Winners: Zemun (SRB)
Who would have said the number 8 team in the world would win this challenger after Day 1? On Saturday, Zemun lost twice (once in the qualifying draw, once in the pools), barely making it to the quarter-finals. Another team showed up on Sunday, one that did not concede more than 16 points in any of their last 3 games and beat 2 of the top 3 teams in the world: Riga Ghetto (LAT) and Novi Sad. Zemun dominated on the boards (1st overall) with Nikola Vukovic grabbing almost twice as many rebounds as the 2nd in the category (45 vs 26). The team also made the most 2-pointers at the 3rd best clip (28%). What makes this performance even more impressive is the team was playing without 2 of their regular players, Marko Dugosija and Bogdan Dragovic.
The Runners-Up: Novi Sad (SRB)
Novi Sad did not look as flamboyant as in Mexico City on Day 1. After beating Utsunomiya, they got slapped in the face by Team Belgrade (14-21). On Day 2, the 3-time World Tour winners changed gear and sent home Lausanne (SUI) and Ventspils Ghetto (LAT).
In that last game, the number 1 player in the world Dusan Bulut got hot like beach sand, He scored 15 of his team's 21 points on 9/12 shooting. Novi Sad showed their unique brand of 3x3 in Belgrade. They finished 1st in points scored, key assists and field goal percentage.
Zemun jumped to a 6-2 lead thanks to Rasic's 2 early 2-pointers but Bulut kept things close with a few nice dimes and an impossible turn-around jumper to make it a 3-point game (13-10 Zemun).
But Novi Sad could not buy a shot in the final (1/13 from outside the arc) and had no answer for the muscular Nikola Vukovic in the paint (6 points, 8 rebounds). Rasic buried his 4th 2-pointer to give Zemun its biggest lead of the game (18-11). Novi Sad made it a 4-point game with a minute to go but Vukovic called the ball on the block and scored a beautiful mini-hook for the win. After Ulaanbaatar, Zemun won their 2nd Challenger of the season.
Zemun took home $15,000 USD. Both Zemun and Novi Sad already had their ticket to the Prague Masters on August 3-4. Therefore both semi-finalists, Ventspils Ghetto (LAT) and Riga Ghetto (LAT) join them, Liman (SRB), Princeton (USA), Piran (SLO) and NY Harlem (USA) in the Czech capital.
1. Zemun (SRB)
2. Novi Sad (SRB)
3. Ventspils Ghetto (LAT)
4. Riga Ghetto (LAT)
5. Vrbas (SRB)
1. Dusan Bulut (Novi Sad) 45pts
2. Nauris Miezis (Riga) 30pts
3. Nikola Vukovic (Zemun) 29pts
4. Armands Ginters (Ventspils) 25pts
5. Roberts Paze (Ventspils) 24pts
Dusan Bulut was on fire in Belgrade. He finished 1st in scoring, 2nd in rebounds and 3rd in key assists.
Nikola Vukovic (Zemun) dominated on the boards. He nearly averaged twice as many rebounds as the player ranked 2nd in the category (45 vs 26).
One Stojacic may hide another. Strahinja Stojacic (Vrbas) once again stood out. He had a perfect 9/9 from the line on the event and finished 2nd in highlights behind Marko Savic (Novi Sad).
Lazar Rasic buried the most 2 pointers in Belgrade, and at a very respectable clip in outdoor conditions (8/25, 32%).
Amsterdam (NED) only played 2 games in Belgrade, enough time for Dimeo van der Horst to record the only triple-five of the competition (5 points, 5 rebounds, 5 highlights).