SK fall to Japan’s Chiba to finish EASL runners-up for second year in a row

The Seoul SK Knights lost to the Chiba Jets to finish as EASL runners-up for the second straight year.

SK fell 69-72 to the Chiba Jets in the 2023-2024 East Asian Super League (EASL) Final Four at the Lapu-Lapu Hoops Dome in Cebu City, Philippines on Tuesday (Feb. 10). After finishing runners-up to Chungkwan in last year’s inaugural event, SK had to settle for second place this year as they were upset by Ziba.

SK was led by Jamil Warney’s 22 points and 17 rebounds against Chiba, who were led by Japan’s top guard Yuki Togashi. Leon Williams chipped in with 15 points and Ahn Young-joon 18, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Ahn’s three-pointer made it a one-point game down the stretch, but Warney’s three-point attempt to tie the game rimmed out.

The early stages of the game were dominated by Ziva. Ira Brown pounded SK from inside and outside, while other players chipped in. After a slow start, SK started off with a three-pointer by Ahn Young-joon and converted an end-to-one play in the paint. Warney followed with back-to-back baskets to take the lead. However, they failed to add to their lead and Ziva fought back. Shuta Hara scored with a fantastic behind-the-back pass and Yuki Togashi hit a three-pointer from the outside. With the lead in hand, SK ended the first quarter 16-21.

In the second quarter, SK racked up points with jumpers from Ahn Young-joon and Warney and a breakaway layup from Oh Jae-hyun, but Chiba responded with a calm score from Yuki Togashi. It was the long ball that made SK dance. Choi Won-hyuk, Oh Jae-hyun, and Ahn Young-joon scored in quick succession to equalize the score. The teams then traded leads in a seesaw game until Yuki Togashi hit a three-pointer to give SK the lead, 34-37, at halftime.

In the second half, SK came out with a stingy defense and Leon Williams hit back-to-back jumpers. They gave up a three-pointer to Hara Shuta, but held on around the quiet powerhouse of Williams. The momentum shifted in SK’s favor at the end of the third quarter. Warney came back to life with back-to-back floaters, and Oh Jae-hyun continued his upward trend. The third quarter ended with SK leading 54-51.

The fourth quarter saw Ang’s team fail to register an easy score. After Yuki Togashi fooled his defender perfectly with a crossover dribble and knocked down a three-pointer, SK responded with an inside move from Warney. However, they were unable to easily control Togashi, who scored a series of points as the game went into overtime.

Chiba, who joined the foreign players in the fray, went on a scoring spree. Xavier Cooks’ free throws gave Chiba a four-point lead with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter. With the deficit deepening, SK kept its hopes alive with a three-pointer from Ahn Young-joon off a screen, but the ensuing possession was blocked by the defense and the shot clock was triggered.

Trailing by one point, there were 25.4 seconds left on the clock. SK tried to foul Yuki Togashi, and both free throws went through the rim. Warney missed the ensuing three-pointer to give Chiba the win.

After the match, head coach Jeon Hee-chul said, “We are disappointed with the result, but Ziva is a very good team. Our players did their best. We were outrebounded in the first half, but we focused in the second half. We showed all the defense we have, but our shooting was a little off. We shot poorly from the field, so I think we had a disappointing game.”

“There were some physical challenges, but in hindsight, I think it was a fun experience. I’m disappointed to be the third runner-up (including in the Top 12), but we saw other league teams play against our strengths. We tried different offenses and defenses. It was a step up for me and for the players,” concluded the EASL.

On Warne, he said: “He’s the best player in the world in terms of offense. I noticed at Ziva that they prepared a lot of defense for him. Other teams are also trying to stop him. I think he is definitely a target 토토 for all overseas teams, including those in Asia,” while Oh Jae-hyun said, “He has always shown good defense, but his offense has also grown. Since I’ve been with the national team, I’ve grown in all aspects of offense, including passing.”

“It’s unfortunate that Choi Boo-kyung was injured here, but Kim Sun-hyung will be back when the league resumes. We’ve had a lot of injuries in the team, but we’ve been able to grow our defense. We have eight games left in the regular season, and we are determined to show our sharp spear again in the playoffs.”

“It’s a shame because we played our best, but we showed our strengths,” said Ahn, who finished with 18 points, “I wish our shots would have gone in and made the game easier. The Chiba Jets had a change of possession on defense and we weren’t focused. I think one or two misses might have decided the game.”

When asked about his takeaways from the tournament, he said, “The players gained from playing against players from other countries. I played with other teams and two or three mercenaries, and the experience of marking foreign players in my position will be very helpful when I go to the KBL.”

“Choi Won-hyuk and Oh Jae-hyun took turns blocking him, but his shots were so good that it was hard to stop him, and it was hard for me as a defender. Togashi had good shots and passes. I thought Oh Jae-hyun blocked it well, but when it was over, he had over 20 points. He’s a great player.”


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