Booming Vienna win first major title on pro circuit at FIBA 3x3 ABA Edmonton Challenger
EDMONTON (Canada) - Led by comeback king Stefan Stojacic, Vienna (AUT) made a statement with their first major title on the pro circuit after claiming the FIBA 3x3 ABA Edmonton Challenger 2022 on July 30-31.
The Austrians proved they are the real deal after an unbeaten record in Edmonton, where they booked a ticket to next month's Montreal Masters.
Here's what happened.
The winners: Vienna (AUT)
They were: No.1 points scored, best shooting value and fewest points allowed.
Over the past two years, when they were known as Graz, the Austrians proved they were highly competitive but needed a spark to move up the increasingly competitive 3x3 ladder.
Enter former number one 3x3 player in the world Stefan Stojacic with 'Mr Robot' hoped to fuel a rise as player-coach of the newly banded Vienna. A serious knee injury, which limited him over the last few years with Liman, appeared likely to keep Stojacic on the sidelines but he didn't rule out a comeback.
Quite clearly, Stojacic has more lives than Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. His amazing comeback culminated in an MVP performance in Edmonton.
Stojacic was No.1 in player value (40.1) and scoring (39) to wind back the clock to his glory years. He's forming a devastating one-two punch with dynamo Filip Kramer with the tour de force impossible to stop when he gets a full head of steam.
The 6ft. 7in (2m) athletic marvel can go into beast mode and is getting better at every event. His versatility and size has made him the defensive anchor, underlining Vienna's stingy defense where they conceded the fewest ppg (14.6).
No.4 seed Vienna's impressive run included big Ws over No.1 seed Antwerp (BEL) in the semis and No.2 seed Amsterdam HiPro (NED) in the quarters.
Take note, a new power is emerging in a rising 3x3 country.
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The runners-up: Princeton (USA)
The Americans flew the 3x3 flag for the red, white and blue during the back end of last decade but were mostly absent during the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They talked up their chances heading into the season and have backed it up with strong performances, including a strong showing in Edmonton where they only just missed out on their first title on the pro circuit since 2019.
Princeton showcased plenty of firepower through gunner Canyon Barry, son of NBA legend Rick Barry, big fella Kareem Maddox and new star Isaiah Wilkerson.
Princeton vowed to return to their famous defensive intensity they showed in 2019 and, through their size and speed, the Americans were tough to score on when it mattered most in close knockout games against NY Harlem (USA) and Paris (FRA).
Even though their title dreams ended in heartbreak, Princeton had a strong campaign and enjoyed the bragging rights over compatriots NY Harlem in the quarters then squeezed past rising Paris in the semis.
The Americans, however, will be getting frustrated continually falling short having finished second also at the Utsunomiya Opener and Bordeaux Challenger.
Contrasting duo dominate: Big boy Maddox and the smaller Wilkerson are becoming a major handful for opponents. Maddox is tall and springy, while Wilkerson is built like a bull making him much taller than his 6ft. 3in (1.90m) frame.
The duo often played bully ball and were in the top 3 in boards overall to finish with a combined 49 rebounds.
Maddox and Wilkerson are also inside and outside threats on O to make their opponents loco.
Princeton will fight for the title in Edmonton!#3x3Challenger #3x3ChEdmonton pic.twitter.com/ngttAxKDCm— FIBA3x3 (@FIBA3x3) July 31, 2022
The Final: Vienna 22- Princeton 20
The two unbeaten teams met in the decider and they quickly warmed up Edmonton by trading buckets on five consecutive possessions in a furious start.
A Kareem Maddox layup opened up an 8-5 lead for Princeton but Stefan Stojacic answered right back with a two-piece. The game went up a gear when a beautiful feed from Canyon Barry found Maddox for the two-handed jam.
Maddox then showed his range to level up at 14 apiece but Stojacic's hot hand continued as Vienna sensed their first Challenger title. Princeton, too, were desperate to win their first pro event of the season and then scored 5 straight points to lead 19-16 and just one bucket away from victory.
In the frantic last minute, Vienna went to their stars and Stojacic and Filip Kramer answered to give them a 20-19 lead. But Wilkerson had nerves of steel to drive calmly for a layup and force OT.
Fittingly, it was Kramer who sealed the deal with two clutch free throws to finish with a game-high 11 points and seal Vienna's first major title.
You sense it's the first of many.
The reward: Two tickets to the Montreal Masters
Vienna and Princeton earned their tickets to the Montreal Masters on September 3-4, 2022.
They join Riga (LAT), Sakiai Gulbele (LTU), Lublin Lotto (POL), Machala (ECU) as the teams to have qualified for this season's sixth Masters.
1. Vienna (AUT)
2. Princeton (USA)
3. Antwerp (BEL)
4. Paris (FRA)
5. NY Harlem (USA)
1. Stefan Stojacic (Vienna, AUT) 39 pts
2. Alex Vialaret (Paris, FRA) 31 pts
3. Filip Kramer (Vienna, AUT) 31 pts
4. Isaiah Wilkerson (Princeton, USA) 28 pts
5. Canyon Barry (Princeton , USA) 27 pts
- Three of the top four seeds made the semis with No.2 seed Amsterdam HiPro (NED) crashing out in the quarters to Vienna.
-The epic final between Vienna and Princeton was the third longest game of the tournament lasting 11'20'' of playing time.
- Antwerp (BEL) couldn't keep their hot form going but superstar Thibaut Vervoort again proved he was the hottest show on TV with two of the four triple-fives of the tournament.