Liman wins first title of season at FIBA 3x3 Clermont-Ferrand Challenger 2023
CLERMONT-FERRAND (France) - Red-hot Stefan Kojic inspired powerhouses Liman (SRB) to their first title of the season with victory at the FIBA 3x3 Clermont-Ferrand Challenger 2023.
Here's what happened on June 10-11.
The winners: Liman (SRB)
They were: No.1 shooting value
This was a remarkable triumph after No.6 seeds Liman didn't finish near the top of the major stat categories.
They looked like packing their bags after a 21-11 thrashing to Paris (FRA) first up before turning it around with a tough win over in-form San Juan (PUR).
Liman might look a little different this season, but they have the same steeliness and remain inspired by sniper Kojic and Mihailo Vasic, who won gold for Serbia at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup 2023.
It was Kojic who made Clermont-Ferrand rain with a crazy 14 points to lift Liman past No.1 seeds Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU) in a dramatic quarter-final with Ning Zhang the hero with a two-piece buzzer beater.
Liman could not be stopped from there as they beat Utrecht (NED) and compatriots Partizan (SRB) with tense victories in a satisfying triumph after finishing second twice so far on the pro circuit.
MVP Kojic is toying with opponents like Djokovic as he finished at the top of all the major stat categories, including pouring in 45 points.
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The runners-up: Partizan (SRB)
There is nothing flashy about these Serbs, but make no mistake Partizan remain on the cusp of the top tier.
They are always consistent as Partizan proved here with a deep run which included impressive Day One wins over rising Tel-Aviv (ISR) and Princeton (USA).
Partizan proved why they are hard to beat in the clutch with tight wins over Lausanne (SUI) and Paris before Kojic proved too much in the final.
Popovic continues to pop: Ivan Popovic might be one of the most underrated players on the pro circuit.
There may be others who are more athletic and freewheeling, but Popovic just always gets the business done.
He again superbly led Partizan with 33 points - the third most in the tournament - as this formidable team enjoyed their best result of the season so far.
The Final: Liman 21-Partizan 19
Serbia are taking center stage in the sports world right now, so fittingly Liman and Partizan fought for the crown in Clermont-Ferrand.
The question was whether Partizan had an answer for Stefan Kojic, who has been on a heater this season.
Ning Zhang, however, started hot with the first four points for Liman, but Partizan kept pace and it was clear this was going to be a tight game.
Ivan Popovic stamped his authority with a two-piece then Stefan Torbica went bang as Partizan skipped out to a 10-6 lead.
Kojic had been unusually quiet, but he woke up with seven points in two minutes and suddenly Liman were in the lead.
If you thought Partizan would roll over, think again as this epic decider fittingly went down to the wire.
But Kojic just had to be the hero and it fittingly went to script when he hit a two piece to give Liman a 19-16 edge before nailing the sweet jumper to seal his team's deserved title.
The reward: Two tickets to the Prague Masters
Liman and Partizan qualified for the Prague Masters on August 5-6, 2023. They join Antwerp TOPdesk, Riga and Jeddah.
1. Liman (SRB)
2. Partizan (SRB)
3. Paris (FRA)
4. Utrecht (NED)
5. Raudondvaris Hoptrans (LTU)
1. Stefan Kojic (Liman, SRB) 45 pts
2. Franck Seguela (Paris, FRA) 36 pts
3. Ivan Popovic (Partizan, SRB) 33 pts
4. Hieronymus van der List (Utrecht, NED) 28 pts
5. Raphael Wilson (Lausanne, SUI) 28 pts
- Top seeds Raudondvaris Hoptrans were the only top-four seed who didn't make the semis after losing a quarter-final thriller to eventual champs Liman .
- Hieronymus van der List from Utrecht (NED) was a beast to finish top in rebounds and he also registered the only triple-five of the event with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 5 highlights against Yokohama Beefman EXE (JPN).
- Lausanne's Raphael Wilson was a flamethrower throughout with 28 points from 3 games, including 12 against Yokohama