30/09/2018
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Everything you need to know about Semifinalists at FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018

NONTHABURI (FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018) - After an intense three days of action in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, there are only four teams left in the running for the title.

Here's what you need to know about the 4 semifinalists of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018!

Alvark Tokyo (Japan)

The B.League champions were always among the top of the pack throughout the season, but had to accept a finish at 3rd place in the regular season standings with a 44-16 record. It turns out that Alvark Tokyo were saving their best for last by rattling off 5 straight wins in the playoffs and claim the title. They were able to knock off the top-seeded team, SeaHorses Mikawa, in two straight close Semifinal wins before blowing out 2nd-seeded Chiba Jets 85-60 in the championship game.

 

This will be the first appearance ever for the 70-year-old club in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup and they will surely not be taking their participation lightly as they are grouped with the defending champions and the hosts.

This past season, Alvark were powered by promising local star Yudai Baba as well as National Team veteran Joji Takeuchi. Another major contributor for the team is well-travelled Seiya Ando who has spent time playing in Canada and the Philippines before winning the title with Alvark last season.

And who can forget the Finals MVP, Daika Tanaka, who averaged 12.5 points and 5.1 assists for Alvark last season?

So far in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018, Alvark Tokyo has maintained their strong form to stay undefeated after the first three games of the Group Phase. Coach Luka Pavicevic has maintained balance in his offense with 6 players averaging at least 9 points.

The majority of their firepower has come from foreigner player Alex Kirk who is averaging 26.7 points and 11.3 rebounds on 67.5% shooting. Sharpshooter Tanaka has also proven to be worth the Finals MVP hype, gunning for 14.7 points on 54.5% three-point shooting.

Meralco Bolts (Philippines)

The Meralco Bolts are relatively a new team in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) having joined the league only in 2010. There were rough starts early on in the team's first few years in the league, but they have gradually become a formidable team. Recently under Coach Norman Black, the Bolts have two Finals appearances in the Governor's Cup in both the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 season.

This will be the first time ever in FIBA Asia Champions Cup history that a representative from the PBA will be among the elite teams in participation. The Bolts will look to end a 22-year draught of FIBA Asia Champions Cup titles for the Philippines since Hapee Toothpaste won it all back in 1996 (when the competition was called the ABC Champions Cup).

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The Bolts were looking from the outside in to Semifinals contention after two straight losses to start the competition. Not only did they have to win against the defending champions Al-Riyadi, they had to beat them by a sizeable amount. They won by 33 points just to be sure and earned a trip to the Semifinals.

The twin towers of Allen Durham (20.3 points, 14.7 rebounds) and Diamond Stone (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds) have led most of the way for Bolts by giving them a size advantage down low. They are surround by more than capable wings and guards which was evident in the win over Al-Riyadi when 6 players scored at least 8 points.

Baser Amer has been the Bolt's most consistent perimeter contributor with 10.3 point per game and a scorching hot 57.1% from beyond the three-point line. Coach Norman Black will need Amer to be at his top form throughout the last two days of play if he wants to end the Philippines 22-year FIBA Asia Champions Cup title draught.

Petrochimi (Iran)

This will be the third straight year in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup for Petrochimi. After two straight Semifinals appearances (and a disappointing loss to BC Astana last year to end up in 4th place), they will be highly motivated to go all the way this time.

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The path to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup has been bright so far for Petrochimi as they swept the competition at the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018 WABA Qualifier, which included a dominating win over Al-Riyadi in their final game. The two teams won't get an early rematch as they are placed in separate groups, but Petrochimi are surely looking to exact their revenge over the Lebanese squad after losing to them in the Semifinals last year.

Petrochimi are considered a modern powerhouse of Iranian basketball, claiming 4 titles in the past 6 seasons and are hoping to add a FIBA Asia Champions Cup title to their collection. 

They have had no trouble through the start of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2018 with three straight convincing wins over their opponents. Petrochimi's dominance can be displayed but not limited to where they rank in the major statistical categories: 2nd in points (93.7), 1st in rebounds (51.7), and 1st in assists (24.3).

The backcourt pairing of Sajjad Mashayekhi (19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 3.5 steals) and Benham Yakhchali (20.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.7 steals) has been disruptive to all their opponents and should continue to do so as the tournament progresses.

SK Knights (Korea)

The SK Knights quickly rose to the top of Korean basketball supremacy after being founded in 1997 by winning the Korean Basketball League (KBL) title only 4 seasons later in the 1999-2000 season. They were unable to replicate that success, despite reaching the Finals in two more occasions.

 

It wasn't only until this previous season when the Knights beat Wonju DB Promy, 4-2, in the KBL Finals to finally claim their second championship. The victory gave the opportunity for the SK Knights to be the first Korean team since 2009 to play in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

Seasoned veteran Kim Min-Soo, star shooting guard Kim Sun-Hyung, and rising talent An Youngjun are among the players that the team relied on towards their success last season.

The SK Knights started their FIBA Asia Champions Cup campaign off the wrong foot, losing badly to Petrochimi. The Korean club were able to regroup nicely by blowing out the Liaoning Flying Leopards before outdueling Pauian Archiland to seal a Semifinals bid.

Just as the SK Knights needed time to get things going, so did highly-touted foreigner Dajuan Summers. The 6'8" forward started the tourney with a relatively quiet 21 points on 6/19 shooting and 4 rebounds against Petrochimi, drawing some doubters. However, he was able to flip the switch and finish with 37 points and 13 rebounds on 21 shots in the final and crucial game of the Group Phase.

Summers got consistent and much needed contribution from former youth National Team player, Byun Kihun. The 29-year-old guard scored in double-digits of all his games to average 17.3 points along with 3.3 rebounds and 4.7assists per game.

FIBA