Seoul SK Knights secured a spot in the EASLChampions Week championship game this evening with a hard-fought win against TNT Tropang Giga, beating the Philippine side 80-69.
The Knights were coming off a massive comeback victory against the Bay Area Dragons the previous night. They faced a TNT team coming off a defeat to tournament hosts Utsunomiya Brex by a 33-point margin.
In today’s game, at the Nikkan Arena Tochigi in Utsunomiya, Japan, the defending Korean Basketball League (KBL) champions showed fatigue early on. It was a tightly contested game through the first three quarters, as the Knights struggled to shoot, hitting only 41 percent from the field. Their defense kept them in the game, frustrating TNT and causing the Philippine side to go 36 percent on the floor for the first three quarters.
The Knights pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the PBA powerhouse 23-14 to finish the group stage with back-to-back wins.
The Seoul team topped Group B with the best record, their two victories putting them ahead of Bay Area Dragons and Utsunomiya Brex who had one victory each.
Seoul had strong contributions from many players this evening. Jameel Warney led the charge, recording his second double-double in as many games, finishing with a game-high 21 points, 19 boards and 9 assists, an assist shy of a triple-double.
After the game, Warney said: ”It was tough for us. Playing back-to-back any time is hard. But going in the middle of our season and coming to a different country is really tough. We played Bay Area yesterday – it was a good team. Playing the champions of the PBA today, we knew they were going to be tough. We knew it was going to be hard. They played great. They played really tough in the whole game. Much respect to them.”
Tonight’s loss eliminated TNT fromEASL Champions Week, after they lost back-to-back games and finished bottom ofGroup B. But the Philippine side restored some pride with their competitive performance, after the big loss to Brex on day one.
Calvin Oftana had a strong game off the bench for the losing side, scoring a team-high 16points in nearly 20 minutes of play.
Seoul SK Knights now wait to see who they match up against in the EASL Champions Week championship game on Sunday in Okinawa. They will face the winner of Group A, which will be determined tomorrow over two games in Okinawa, Anyang KGC v San Miguel Beermen and Ryukyu Golden Kings v Taipei Fubon Braves.