Gritty Princeton ends title drought at FIBA 3x3 Baoding Challenger 2023
BAODING (China) - Powerhouse American team Princeton (USA) ended a two-year title drought with a remarkable triumph at the FIBA 3x3 Baoding Challenger 2023.
Here's what happened.
The winners: Princeton (USA)
They were: No.2 points scored and shooting value
It's been two years since this famous American team tasted success on the pro circuit, but the wait was worth it.
Playing without a sub, a three man Princeton overcame the odds to go all the way in a victory that put them back on the 3x3 map.
After a first up loss to Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU), the Americans played inspired with big victories over Paris (FRA) and in-form Liman Huishan NE (SRB).
A thrilling OT win to gain revenge over Raudondvaris sealed one of Princeton's sweetest victories for this new-look team.
Henry Caruso had one of the most dazzling debuts seen in 3x3 after topping player value (47.3)and grabbing a whopping 45 rebounds.
He was well supported by veteran Damon Huffman who again proved he was a tough man to lead the scoring charts with 49 points, while Zahir Carrington was the glue guy.
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The runner's-up: Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU)
The Lethal Lithuanians had their eyes on the prize and looked set for a first title of the season after an unbeaten run to the final, including stunning consecutive wins over Beijing (CHN) and Amsterdam HiPRO (NED).
Beijing were title favorites until being shut down in the quarters with superheroes Karlis Lasmanis and Nauris Miezies combining for just 9 points.
Raudondvaris then followed up with a tight win over the Dutch Masters as Aurelijus Pukelis went off with a game high 12 points.
They couldn't quite get it done against Princeton, but these Lithuanians know they aren't far off.
Deadly duo: Put some respect on their names! Aurelijus Pukelis and Marijus Uzupis are simply one of the baddest duos in the business as they again proved with amazing performances in Baoding.
The one-two punch combined for 70 points with Pukelis particularly feeling it with a lights out display.
They were also well supported by high-flyer Modestas Kumpys, who - you guessed it - finished No.1 in highlights (21).
The Final: Princeton 21-Raudondvaris Hoptrans 20
The big question in this rematch was whether three-man Princeton had enough left in the tank against Raudondvaris, who they had lost to on Day One.
But Princeton are made tough through their leader Damon Huffman, who went bang, bang as the shorthanded Americans showed no signs of fatigue.
Athletic Modestas Kumpys decided to ignite Raudondvaris with a couple of strong drives to the rack as the teams went toe-to-toe.
Huffman and Marijus Uzupis traded twos and another decider on this crazy pro circuit season was headed for an epic finish.
Paulius Beliavicius split the deadlock with a long bomb before Henry Caruso responded with three quick points to edge Princeton back into the lead.
The Lithuanians hit back and free throws from Aurelijus Pukelis had Raudondvaris on the brink at 20-18.
But Princeton's never say die attitude came to the fore with Carsuo fittingly the hero with a brilliant spin move to call game as partner-in-crime Huffman jumped into his arms to celebrate a memorable victory for the Americans.
The reward: Three tickets to the Lausanne Masters
Princeton, Raudondvaris Hoptrans and Liman Huishan NE qualified for the Lausanne Masters on August 18-19. They join Miami, Tel-Aviv, Antwerp TOPdesk, Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy and Ub Huishan NE in the draw.
1. Princeton (USA)
2. Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU)
3. Liman Huishan NE (SRB)
4. Amsterdam HiPRO (NED)
5. Paris (FRA)
1. Damon Huffman (Princeton, USA) 49 pts
2. Aurelijus Pukelis (Raudondvaris Hoptrans, LTU) 41 pts
3. Henry Caruso (Princeton, USA) 33 pts
4. Stefan Kojic (Liman Huishan NE, SRB) 31 pts
5. Marijus Uzupis (Raudondvaris Hoptrans, LTU) 29 pts
- Red-hot Beijing entered as favorites but won just one of three games and fell to Raudondvaris Hoptrans in the quarters.
- Liman's scoring machine Stefan Kojic continued his strong form with 31 points in 4 games and he finished second in highlights (18).
- Utrecht's Lenno Witteveen had two triple-fives on Day One.