MVP Pukelis leads Raudondvaris Hoptrans to title at FIBA 3x3 Hongcheon Challenger

3 Oct 2023

HONGCHEON (Korea) - Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU) won their first title since the Debrecen Masters with a dominant display at the FIBA 3x3 Hongcheon Challenger 2023.

Here's what happened.

The winners: Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU)

They were: No.1 most points scored

The lethal Lithuanians had been knocked out in the quarters in their only two events since destroying the competition in Debrecen.

They may never have looked better than in Hongcheon with Raudondvaris unbeaten with no team scoring more than 15 points against them

Their title run included a pair of wins over Saitama ALPHAS EXE (JPN) and a semi-final victory over Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL).

Other than their lockdown D, Raudondvaris were potent and hit the magical 21-point mark on every occasion bar scoring 20 points in the pool game against Saitama.

Marijus Uzupis and Aurelijus Pukelis were dynamic in tandem and combined for 70 points to remind everyone that they should be discussed among the best duos in the game.

They could have raffled the MVP but Pukelis took home the top honors after finishing No.1 in player value (47.6).

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The runner's up: Saitama ALPHAS EXE (JPN)

The Japanese team haven't been seen too many times this season, but are trending upwards after their best performance of 2023.

Saitama went up a gear in the knockout stages with thrilling victories over Paris (FRA) and Tubingen (GER) to qualify for the final.

They were unable to crack Raudondvaris Hoptrans, but Saitama can feel well pleased with their efforts and it's a performance to build on.

Sizzling Sucur: The 23-year-old Petar Sucur has impressed in his first season on the 3x3 pro circuit.

And he stole the show for his team in Hongcheon with a lights out shooting display, proving particularly dangerous when he went into attack mode.

Sucur is the latest Serb to dominate the half-court and he's just getting started.

The Final: Raudondvaris Hoptrans 21-Saitama ALPHAS EXE 14

The Lithuanians entered as favorites after beating Saitama on Day One and started quickly with walking bucket Aurelijus Pukelis red hot from the get go.

Saitama needed to hit the scoreboard and turned to Petar Sucur, who attacked the rim for a layup before splashing from downtown to get the Japanese back in the contest.

Saitama had the momentum as they hit the lead at the halfway mark before Raudondvaris took over with deadly duo Pukelis and Marijus Uzupis reeling off seven straight points to turn the game on its head.

The pair were unstoppable with Uzupis nailing a two to clinch Raudondvaris' deserved title.

Pukelis sealed his MVP with a game-high 10 points capped by an insane 10 of 10 shooting from the half-court.

The reward: Three tickets to the Wuxi Masters

Saitama ALPHAS EXE, Tubingen and Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy received tickets and joined already qualified Raudondvaris Hoptrans, Ub Huishan NE, Partizan, Marijampole Mantinga, Sansar MMC Energy and Pirot as the teams qualified to the Wuxi Masters on November 4-5.

Final Standings:
1. Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU)
2. Saitama ALPHAS EXE (JPN)
3. Tubingen (GER)
4. Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL)
5. Paris (FRA)

Top Scorers:
1. Marijus Uzupis (Raudondvaris Hoptrans, LTU) 35 pts
2. Aurelijus Pukelis (Raudondvaris Hoptrans, LTU) 35 pts
3. Niklas Schuler (Tublingen, GER) 31 pts
4. Petar Sucur (Saitama ALPHAS EXE, JPN) 31 pts
5. Devin Gilligan (Saitama ALPHAS EXE, JPN) 26 pts

Key Stats:
- Top seeds Beijing (CHN) fell in the quarters to Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL)
- Niklas Schuler led ninth seed Tubingen to a surprising semi-final run and finished third in player value (33.2)
- Park Raehun gave the home fans plenty to cheer about on Day One with 12 points and 5 highlights in Hongcheon's (KOR) upset over powerhouse Riga (LAT)