Anyang KGC are crowned the Korean Basketball League (KBL) regular season champions after a 76-71 victory Wonju DB Promy on March 26. The regular season champions are the third team in KBL history to achieve a wire-to-wire finish, where they remain first from beginning to end the entire season – after Promy in 2012 and Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus in 2019.
This is KGC’s second ever regular season title, their first since 2017, the year when they won the KBL championships. KGC coach Kim Sang Sik said, “From the beginning of the season, I thought, 'I think it will work' because the performance was good. I want to thanks to the players and coaches who has helped me.”
Anyang’s season started off with a bang, recording just one loss in the opening month against Jeonju KCC Egis. From the end of January to February, the team rode a 10 game winning streak for the first time in team history, giving them a comfortable lead as leaders in the standings.
In March, Anyang KGC travelled to Japan to compete in the East Asia Super League (EASL) Champions Week, where eight teams from five different countries competed in a five-day tournament. Anyang’s dominance carried overseas, demolishing the likes of Taipei Fubon Braves of the P.LEAGUE+ in Taiwan and San Miguel Beermen of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) to advance to an all-KBL final against Seoul SK Knights. In a tightly-contested game, KGC beat their Korean rivals and defending KBL champions 90-84 to become the inaugural champions of EASL Champions Week. Anyang’s import and former NBA big man Omari Spellman claimed the Pocari Sweat EASL Champions Week Most Valuable Player award, averaging 31.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, averaging three assists and a block in three games.
After the championship game, Spellman said the game likely foreshadowed the upcoming contest between the two sides back in Korea: “I think, most likely, it’s a preview of what’s to come in the upcoming KBL Championships. Those guys are an unbelievable team. Suny [Kim Sun Hyung], Jameel [Warney], unbelievable. So, just got to get ready for the season, come back, and be ready to get it done.”
However, the team suffered a bit of “championship hangover” after their trip in Japan, going down three consecutive games. Despite their losses, the top spot in the KBL standings was secured on Sunday with one game in hand.
In their game against Wonju on Sunday, Anyang had a dominant effort by Spellman, Byeon Jun Hyeong and Oh Se Keun, combining for 48 of the team’s 76 points, beating Wonju DB Promy by five in front of their sold-out crowd of 4,929 home fans, their largest home attendance this season.
After the game, Oh said, "It's good to win the regular league championship in six years. But it was so hard. We all had good game plans, but the players couldn't implement it well, so it seems that we were finally able to finish this strong today [March 26]. The head coach, assistant coaches, and support staff all worked hard, and they were rewarded with the victory. We finished winning the regular league today and will prepare for the playoffs.”
At halftime, a retirement ceremony was held for captain Yang Hee Jong, who had spent a long time at KGC. His long-time teammate, Oh said, "It's the first time I've seen a retirement ceremony like this up close. I couldn't help but cry inside. It's the first time the team given a permanent number, and I think Yang will take it meaningfully.”
For the 38-year-old Yang, who announced he will retire at the end of the season last month, he has been with the team since 2007, winning three KBL Championships and was KBL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
“Thank you so much. The fans gave us a lot of support and strength, so the players were able to gain strength. The regular season wasn't easy. There were many things, but today [March 26] I will prepare with the mindset of washing it clean and starting over. I want you to be with me for the Last Dance.” Yang said to the fans.
The team will play one more regular season game against Goyang Carrot Jumpers on Wednesday, March 29. They will then advance straight to the KBL quarterfinals starting on April 13 after finishing as leaders in the regular season, facing the winners of the fourth-fifth playoff matchup. Anyang KGC has won three KBL championships – in 2012, 2017 and 2021. They will look to avenge their last season’s loss in the KBL finals, where they fell to Seoul SK Knights four games to one.
“I hope [Seoul] SK will come up. I have to get revenge from last season's playoff finals and I think I can play well,” Oh added. “This time, [Byeon] Jun Hyung wants to win [Kim] Sun Hyung. But the semifinal playoffs come before the championship match, so I will focus the semifinals first.”