24 Apr 2023
ULAANBAAATAR (Mongolia) - Utsunomiya BREX (JPN) made a statement ahead of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 with victory at the Ulaanbaatar Super Quest on April 22-23.
The Japanese team will enter next weekend's Utsunomiya Opener on a high to add spice to the much-anticipated World Tour launch.
Here's what happened in Ulaanbaatar.
The winners: Utsunomiya BREX (JPN)
They were: No.1 most points scored, best shooting value and fewest points conceded.
Utsunomiya BREX don't want to just make up the numbers at their home Masters - they are determined to make some noise.
There's a good chance their fans will make plenty of noise if Utsunomiya continue their hot start to the season after an unbeaten run in Ulaanbaatar.
The 4th seed swept aside Bayangol Broncos (MGL) and dangerous Manila Chooks (PHI) on Day One.
Their momentum continued in a one-sided quarter-final against Zavkhan (MGL) before they were challenged at the business end.
Utsunomiya stunned the home crowd after upsetting top seed Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) 21-17 thanks largely to an out of body performance from sharpshooter Marko Milakovic, who poured in an insane 13 points.
They were again underdogs against much-hyped Futian (CHN) armed with superstar recruits Thibaut Vervoort and Dimeo van der Horst.
But Utsunomiya shut them down to edge ahead in a tense final as Milakovic hit 7 points on his way to collecting the MVP.
The Japanese team made the perfect start to 2023 and issued a warning to the field at the Utsunomiya Opener.
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The runners-up: Futian (CHN)
There was a lot of interest over how newly-formed Futian would fare, especially their big guns Thibaut Vervoort and Dimeo van der Horst.
They might not have gone all the way but there is a lot to like after Futian fell just short of a title.
The No.3 seeds stormed into Day 2 but were then tested in a classic quarter-final against Amgalan (MGL), where Vervoort proved he's an assassin in the clutch with a buzzer-beater two-piece.
They then overcame Sansar MMC Energy (MGL) in a tough semi-final before being edged out by Utsunomiya in an epic final.
You feel Futian are just getting warmed up.
Deadly duo: Vervoort and van der Horst combined brilliantly for 65 points and the duo looked like they had been playing together for years such their chemistry.
Undoubtedly these two scoring machines are already one of the most formidable duos on the pro circuit and they will only get better.
This duo 🤩#3x3SQUlaanbaatar #3x3SQ pic.twitter.com/vuMSr7QkEu— FIBA3x3 (@FIBA3x3) April 22, 2023
The Final: Utsunomiya BREX 21- Futian 18
Locals had hoped for an all-Mongolian final, but this was nonetheless a very interesting contest with in-form Utsunomiya taking on loaded Futian.
The Chinese team were favorites and showed why when prized signing Dimeo van der Horst went bang from deep to open the scoring.
Utsunomiya, however, showed a lot of confidence in Ulaanbaatar and they were not intimidated by Futian's big names.
Teodor Atanasov dominated inside while Marko Milakovic continued his hot form as the Japanese hit back. It was a game of mini-runs but Utsunomiya inched closer at 18-15 when Atanasov scored under the basket off a pretty feed from Milakovic.
On the brink, Futian went to their stars and van der Horst and Thibaut Vervoort didn't let them down but they still trailed 19-18.
Utsunomiya, however, were not to be denied with Ryoma Saito holding his nerve at the line to trigger celebrations from this rising Japanese team.
The reward: Two tickets to Manila Masters
Utsunomiya BREX and Futian qualified for the Manila Masters on May 20-21, 2023.
They join defending champs Ub Huishan NE (SRB), Riga (LAT), Amsterdam HiPRO (NED) and Beijing (CHN).
1. Utsunomiya BREX (JPN)
2. Futian (CHN)
3.Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL)
4. Sansar MMC Energy (MGL)
5. Saitama Alphas (JPN)
1. Marko Milakovic (Utsunomiya, JPN) 41 pts
2. Anand Ariunbold (Sansar, MGL) 35 pts
3. Thibaut Vervoort (Futian, CHN) 34 pts
4. Delgernyam Davaasambuu (Ulaanbaatar, MGL) 31 pts
5. Dimeo van der Horst (Futian, CHN) 31 pts
- The top four seeds made it through to the semis and were all unbeaten to that point.
- Utsunomiya BREX were walking buckets having hit the 21-point target in every game except in the quarter-final against Zavkhan (MGL), where they won easily by a convincing 19-7 margin.
- After his heroics at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023, superstar Anand Ariunbold was a flamethrower to finish with 35 points at 8.8 ppg - the highest average for any player who made it through to Day 2.