Dusseldorf LFDY makes statement with victory at FIBA 3x3 Deqing Huzhou Challenger 2023
Here's what happened.
The winners: Dusseldorf LFDY (GER)
They were: No.1 fewest points allowed, No.2 points scored and shooting value
The Germans showed flashes of potential last season but knew the key to ultimate success lay in qualifying for events on the World Tour.
They have done well so far in 2023 after a runners-up finish at the FIBA 3x3 Lausanne Super Quest 2023 earned them a spot at the Manila Masters, where they unluckily missed out on progressing from Day One.
Dusseldorf overcame that disappointment with a superb performance in Deqing Huzhou, where the No.5 seeds were unbeaten to signal they are ready for a breakout season.
They easily overcame popular veterans NY Harlem (USA) on Day One before impressive performances at the knockout stage, which included thrilling victories over Lausanne (SUI) and powerhouse Liman (SRB).
Dusseldorf were led by MVP Niklas Kropp, whose towering frame mixed with insane handles and a lethal lefty jumper makes him an unstoppable scorer.
The 25-year-old former Hamburg player is destined for stardom and he flat out dominated Deqing Huzhou, including finishing second in scoring with 37 points.
He combined brilliantly with sharpshooter Alan Boger, who isn't just a doppelganger for Luka Doncic - the dude can flat out ball in his own right.
With Florian Wendeler and Kevin Bryant rounding out this emerging team, Dusseldorf are making their move on the pro circuit.
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The runners-up: Liman (SRB)
It's been a different looking Liman team this season, but the same high standard from this long-time powerhouse.
Liman included three Chinese players around star Stefan Kojic and the team didn't miss a beat with a second straight runners-up finish.
They edged out Versailles (FRA) in a Day One thriller before surviving a tough test in the quarters against Hangzhou (CHN).
Liman were on a roll when they easily beat Toronto KBA (CAN) in the semis, but their run ended at the last hurdle against Dusseldorf.
Kojic was predictably the star, but Liman will be happy with their depth as powerful Chinese player Ninh Zhang was a beast in the paint to lead rebounds while Yanxu Zhou was a sniper from deep.
The names might have changed, but Liman remains formidable whenever they step on the half-court.
Killer Kojic: Somehow, someway, Kojic is getting even better after his red-hot start to the season.
He was absolutely lights out to stuff the stats sheet and finish No.1 in player value (44.7), top scorer (44), highlights (19) and key assists (10).
Stefan Kojic is adding another layer to his legendary 3x3 career and he might have never looked better.
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The Final: Dusseldorf LFDY 21-Liman 17
There was a lot of excitement over this match-up, especially over the two expert snipers Niklas Kropp and Stefan Kojic who had clearly been the best players in the tournament.
It was almost a shoot-out contest between them with the lanky German getting a head start with a couple of two-pieces before Kojic went bang, bang.
Kojic was in heater mode and his hot hand was extended to Yanxu Zhou, whose two lifted Liman to a 15-11 lead.
Kropp took matters in his own hands with fancy dribbling and a nice dish to Florian Wendeler for a bucket before another two-piece got the Germans within a point.
Dusseldorf had the momentum and they lifted their defensive intensity to shut down Stojic and take control. Fittingly, it was Kropp who finished the business with a couple of two-pieces to cap his insane 12-point performance.
He was a deserved MVP as the Germans celebrated their title and made a statement to the competition.
The reward: Two tickets to the Edmonton Masters
Dusseldorf LFDY and Liman qualified for the Edmonton Masters on July 28-29, 2023. They join Ub Huishan NE, Riga, Amsterdam HiPRO, Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy, Washington and San Juan.
1. Dusseldorf LFDY (GER)
2. Liman (SRB)
3. Lausanne (SUI)
4. Toronto KBA (CAN)
5. Partizan (SRB)
1. Stefan Kojic (Liman, SRB) 44 pts
2. Niklas Kropp (Dusseldorf LFDY, GER) 37 pts
3. Ning Zhang (Liman, SRB) 36 pts
4. Alan Boger (Dusseldorf LFDY, GER) 28 pts
5. Marko Milakovic (Utsunomiya BREX EXE, JPN) 24 pts
- Fourth seeds NY Harlem (USA) were bounced on Day One after losing to Hangzhou (CHN) and Dusseldorf LFDY (GER).
- Westher Molteni aka 'King Wes' was a beast on the boards to finish with 28 rebounds from 4 games.
- Partizan's Marko Stevanovic had arguably the best game of the event against Saitama ALPHA (JPN) with a triple-five of 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 highlights with a buzzer beater to boot.