Neftchi pull off historical win in FIBA 3x3 Women's Series Melilla Stop 2023
MELILLA (Spain) - Neftchi defeated three contenders in a row, last defeating home Nation Spain 13-12 to win FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series Melilla Stop 2023 on August 18-19.
Here’s how it went down on the seventeenth stop of the season.
The Winners: Neftchi
Don’t let anyone tell you defense isn’t a winning formula. After a short stint away from glory, Neftchi were primed to get back to winning ways, but not before taking on one of the most difficult roads to the final.
They started off with a strong win against a plucky Portugal side. Emilia Ferreira put up 7 points and four rebounds but fell just short thanks to the duo of Arica Carter and Brianna Fraser keeping matters ticking for the commercial side from Azerbaijan.
They took on Düsseldorf ZOOS next, where for once, their defense just wasn’t enough to hold off Aoi Katsura. The Japanese star drove past Dina Ulyanova numerous times near the end to clutch onto a victory. The result would send Neftchi into the difficult path of the knockout stages, now having to face the best in the tournament if they wanted to have a shot at winning it all.
If you have wondered what makes the commercial team so great, they showcased just that on Day 2 of the Melilla stop. They took on a strong USA side led by Cierra Burdick and Linnae Harper. The free-flowing American offense failed to flourish as it usually does, the passes was intercepted, the shots were heavily contested. Neftchi didn’t allow USA to breathe. Despite the size in the American side, they were constantly found out on mismatches by Carter and Fraser. With a three-point lead with a minute to go, Neftchi clamped down on defense, holding on to defeat the USA 14-17.
Next was a full-strength China team, undoubtedly the most difficult matchup for any side this season. The same followed, Fraser and Mollenhauer utilized their size to never let China transition to their paint game while Ulyanova and Carter locked down Lili Wang. With a 13-17 victory, Neftchi continued to shock the world, booking their spot in the final.
Talk about unstoppable, Spain was just that in Melilla. Sandra Ygueravide was the engine of the team as usual, but Gracia Alonso and Juana Camilion were the offensive juggernauts.
The team steamrolled past Azerbaijan before a huge 7-point, 8-rebound performance from Alonso sent them past Sc. Yuanda to finish Group Play with a perfect record.
They took on a flashy Egypt side in the Quarter-Finals, who unfortunately were no match for Spain as their strength in the paint proved to be the difference maker.
The Netherlands had been a force in the competition so far, Kiki Fleurin and Loyce Bettonvil had been huge offensively for the team. The matchup against Spain was gritty, the duo combined with Janis Boonstra scored 5+ points each, but they just couldn’t stop the on-fire Camilion. She put up 12 points, including multiple and-one plays. It was just too much for the Dutch side as Spain progressed to the final, undeterred as they soaked in the support of the home crowd.
Neftchi 13 - 12 Spain
Both teams are known for their paint offense, and defensive grit. Fraser and Carter had been clutch all tournament, Camilion and Alonso were unstoppable so far just as much. The finals was primed to be a back-and-forth affair
Camilion started where she left off, draining from deep to tip things off. Fraser kept battling back, taking on much of the teams scoring early on. Ulyanova and Mollenhauer gave Neftchi the advantage, but it was short-lived before Alonso did the same for Spain.
At no point, was there more than a two-point difference between the sides, locking each other down for the majority of it. There was truly no team that stood out as better than the other.
With just over a minute to go in the final, Ygueravide tied the game on the free throw line at 11 points apiece. With time ticking down, Carter chucked a two and hustled towards the paint. Fraser grabbed the rebound just enough for Carter to take hold and put it up for the lead. It was quick thinking in Spain to play quick and even things up with an easy bucket for Alonso. With less than 15 seconds to go, Carter found Fraser who grabbed her own missed shot to put her team up by one. Ygueravide chucked a Hail Mary two, which rimmed out to Alonso who put up the rebound, seemingly tying things up at the buzzer. A review showed the shot went in just after the buzzer, granting Neftchi a historic win in Melilla.
MVP - Brianna Fraser
Immense on both ends of the court, Brianna Fraser was the heart of Neftchi, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. with 29 points and 29 rebounds as well.
1. Neftchi (AZE)
6. Dusseldorf ZOOS (GER)
7. Sc. Yuanda (CHN)
10. Czech Republic
11. Melilla (ESP)
The FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series returns to Azerbaijan next as the Baku stop 2023 takes place on August 22-23.