Futian capture winning feeling at FIBA 3x3 Split Challenger 2023

SPLIT (Croatia) - Futian (CHN) ignited their season by producing a dominant performance at the Split Challenger to break a title drought on this season's FIBA 3x3 pro circuit.

Here's what happened.

The winners: Futian (CHN)

They were: No.1 fewest points allowed

There was a lot of pressure on underperforming Futian, who entered with much hype after the splashy signings of stars Dimeo van der Horst and Thibaut Vervoort. 

The Chinese team had yet to win a title and failed to reach the knockouts in their last two events.

Their chances did not look good in Split without Vervoort and after a heart-breaking defeat to Plunge (LTU) first up.

Futian only just snuck into Day Two after beating Zagreb 3BL (CRO) in a thriller before they produced their most inspiring run of games this season.

They restricted Antwerp TOPdesk (BEL) to just 11 points in the quarters then locked down in-form Partizan with a 17-14 semi-final win. 

Futian's momentum continued with a 19-17 win over rising San Juan (PUR) to end their slump in style. 

It was an impressive two-way performance from Futian, who played hardnosed defense throughout.

Van der Horst led the way on offence but he was well supported by Chinese players Hanyu Guo and Dianliang Zhang in a three-headed monster for opponents.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIBA3x3 (@fiba3x3)


The runner's up: San Juan (PUR)

These youthful Puerto Ricans have lit up the pro circuit and came within an inch of their first title this season.

San Juan had their work cut out getting out of Day One against a pair of strong Serb teams. 

They lost their opener to Partizan (SRB) before bouncing back to beat Pirot (SRB).

San Juan faced the toughest of challenges against top seeds Ub Huishan NE (SRB),  but lifted their defensive intensity to record an epic 15-14 win.

The Puerto Ricans squeezed past surprise packets Plunge (LTU) in the semis before falling short to Futian.

Ridiculous Ralat: Antonio Ralat's stock rose further after heating up Split to finish No.1 in points (39) and second in player value (33.2).

In trademark fashion, Ralat hit several big shots and was 35% from deep to again prove that he's one of the deadliest snipers in the business.


The Final: Futian 19-San Juan 17

This was a rematch of the Manila Masters semis, where Futian easily prevailed in what had been their best stretch of play this season. 

Both teams had compiled a dazzling Day Two and this promised to be an epic final. It lived up to the hype although appeared set to be a runaway victory for Futian, who scored the first six points within the opening two minutes.

San Juan needed a response and they turned to star Antonio Ralat, who hit his first basket with a pretty floater off the glass.

A two-pointer from Leandro Allende capped an 8-3 run from San Juan, who reduced the deficit to a single point. But Futian responded with Dimeo van der Horst in attack mode with three quick points to maintain breathing room. 

San Juan went cold until Ralat stepped up and his two-piece cut Futian's lead to 16-15. Hanyu Guo hit a clutch two then MVP van der Horst fittingly iced the game with a tough layup as Futian finally celebrated a title.


The reward: Three tickets to the Manama Masters

Futian, San Juan and Partizan received tickets and joined Hangzhou and Jeddah as the teams qualified to the Manama Masters on November 16-17.

Final Standings:
1. Futian (CHN)
2. San Juan (PUR)
3. Partizan (SRB)
4. Plunge (LTU)
5. Ub Huishan NE (SRB)

Top Scorers:
1. Antonio Ralat (San Juan, PUR) 39 pts
2. Stefan Milivojevic (Partizan, SRB) 31 pts
3. Dimeo van der Horst (Futian, CHN), 30 pts
4. Hanyu Guo (Futian, CHN) 30 pts
5. Dianliang Zhang (Futian, CHN) 28 pts

Key Stats:
- Top seeds Ub Huishan NE and Antwerp TOPdesk fell in the quarters
- No.1 player Strahinja Stojacic was unstoppable with 13 points in Ub's win over Princeton on Day One. 
- Adrian Bogucki of Warsaw Lotto (POL) produced the only triple-five in Split with 7 points, 7 rebounds and 7 highlights against Utrect (NED).