MVP Chun stays calm as Koreans grab Championship

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 September, 1997, 12:00am

CHUN Hee-chul scored the winning basket in the last minute to lead South Korea to a 78-76 victory over Japan in the Asian Basketball Confederation Championship final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Koreans, who shocked hot favourites China in the semi-finals, trailed 44-41 at half-time but fought back and kept their composure in the final seconds to claim their first Asian title.

Japan had a good chance to level the scores and push the game into overtime soon after Chun gave Korea the lead, when Takenhiko Orimo had two free throws. He missed his first attempt and then deliberately missed the second for Michael Takahashi to grab the rebound.

However, Korea were called for movement on the shot and Orimo was awarded another shot. He missed and Korean Kang Dong-hee snatched the rebound to make the game safe for his team.

Chun was named MVP after scoring 19 points and pulling down five rebounds. Moon Kyung-eun and Kim Seung-ki scored 15 points each.

Korean coach Kim Dong-kwan said: 'I'm very happy. I am very proud of my players. It was a very hot game and all the players played hard with good defence. But we were also very lucky.' Japanese coach Mototaka Kohama blamed himself for the loss after calling the free-throw play in the last seconds of the game, saying he assigned the wrong player to try to win the rebound.

The Koreans became the first Asian champions apart from China since 1985, when the Philippines won the title.

China have won 11 of the 13 tournaments they have entered, including the previous five.

The Chinese secured third place with a 94-68 win over Saudi Arabia, but it was little compensation for their semi-final defeat to Korea, which denies them a place in next year's World Championships in Athens, Greece.

Hong Kong finished 14th out of 15 teams in the tournament, above only Bangladesh.

The territory's leading player, Yung Kam-wah, however, earned the Saudi Gazette's Model Player award.