Smart Dragons repeated the tactical nous which brought them back to life on Sunday to outwit Master Tapsi in the title decider 86-75 to win the Chitato Chips Mini Basketball Tournament.
The final of the best-of-three showdown at the Cambodian Country Club court on Wednesday night went to the last game after the Dragons drew level 1-1 to neutralise Master Tapsi’s first game win on March 21.
The Dragons continued where they left off on Sunday to once again deprive Master Tapsi of space or time on the ball, with the pair of Matt Van Pelt and Dara Rithy doing the bulk of the damage.
Ladon Buchanan, who missed Game 2, returned to sharpen the Dragons’ offence.
A 16-point game for Van Pelt and several decisive assists opened the way for Dragons to dominate their rivals, whose round robin form and first game win had made them overwhelming favourites for the title.
At the heart of Dragons success was Dara Rithy, the only Cambodian on either side, and his 20 points, which included two crucial 3-pointers, not only kept his side in front but also brought him the final’s Most Valuable Player award.
The Dragons led 18-9 after the first quarter and went into the interval with an 18-point lead (47-29)
But as was the case in the second game, Tapsi stepped up in the third stanza, with Janno Cunnanan (23) and Aimar Sabayo (32) leading the offensive to cut the deficit to 12 points.
The Dragons used their squad rotation well, with all 11 players having quality time on the court, and utilised man to man marking effectively. It resulted in eight of the players being on the score sheet – six of them with double digit scores,
Tapsi managed to get to within four points with less than two minutes to run, but the Dragons were in no mood to relent as the trio of Van Pelt, Rithy and Buchanan continued to pull off some late stunts to silence the loudly cheering Tapsi fans.
‘Tournament brought life back’
Smart Dragons were awarded the trophy and a purse of $600, while runners-up Master Tapsi received a cash prize of $300. Third placed Extra Joss Fighters received $200.
Fourth placed MSGM celebrated as lead player Hong Kwang, who averaged 22.9 points per game, was voted the MVP of the tournament.
Jeff Kane of Smart Dragons was named the best 3-point shooter following his average of 3.4 per game.
Speaking after the award ceremony, Josh Galt, a leading member of the Phnom Penh basketball community, hailed the tournament as a great success and hoped it will further invigorate the players and fans to step up and continue to organise more events.
“It was great to have this tournament. Since the last CBL in 2016, the basketball community has only been having pick-up games and so this tournament has really brought life back to the basketball community,’’ said Galt, the former manager of CBL-winning team Mekong Tigers.
Tournament director and manager of Extra Joss Fighters Oktavianus Hauw said: “We organised this tournament to bring together the basketball family and also provide a platform for Cambodian players to step up their game through competition. We hope more and more Cambodians will be involved in the future.’’