LG Sakers v KT Sonic Boom, Saturday 2nd February 2013, 4pm

0 - lg sakers arena

I had thought that I’d be away in Oman this weekend but a late change of plan meant that I could take the KTX down to Changwon for a couple of days that began with the derby between basketball teams KT Sonic Boom and LG Sakers and then finished off with a trip to Busan races.

The KTX stops at two different stations in Changwon. I got off at the second one, but I don’t think it makes much difference in terms of distance if you are going to the basketball. Once I was out of the station I was able to convey my destination to the taxi driver with a pretty nifty mime of a set-shot. I’m sure it would have dropped in without touching the rim. It did cross my mind that if I had to do a similar thing the next day then pretending to ride an imaginary horse would be more likely to result in a chorus of  “Oooh sexy lady“ than a journey to the racecourse.

As we approached the Changwon Arena we passed a football ground. I’m always keen to have a nose around even if there isn’t a game on and so I had a wander across. Changwon Stadium doesn’t have a team at the moment with Changwon City currently sharing the Changwon Soccer Centre with their top-flight neighbours Gyeongnam. It’s a fairly typical bowl, with a 37,000 capacity that’s far too big for Gyeongnam never mind Changwon and the newer Soccer Centre is much more appropriately sized. The pitch was covered and it didn’t look as if there was much prospect of it staging a game anytime soon.

Changwon Stadium

Changwon Stadium

A little further along from Changwon Stadium I caught a glimpse of some footballers playing on a nearby pitch. Again, I couldn’t let it go just in case it was a ridiculously early pre-season friendly or maybe a local tournament for the under tens or over fifties. I know.

It turned out to be a bunch of mates having a kickabout on a school field. As it’s the best I’m going to get football-wise for a while I hung around and watched for ten minutes. No doubt they’ll have assumed that I was a scout from a top European side. Or more likely a weird old bloke who might steal all their shoes.

I could probably have joined in if I'd asked nicely.

I could probably have joined in if I’d asked nicely.

I got back to the basketball arena just as the Sonic Boom bus was arriving. It drove across a busy square, scattering small kids who were riding bikes or flying kites and dropped the players off into a crowd of well-wishers.

The Sonic Boom bus arrives.

The Sonic Boom bus arrives.

I picked up some cans before meeting up with a few friends. We had seats on the second tier, down the side. They were pretty good for 8,000 won although with a capacity of only six thousand it didn’t look as if there were many seats where you’d have a poor view.

We kicked off, as always, with the Korean national anthem. Usually I make a point of trying to spot the fella with the most anguished look on his face. An expression so contorted with emotion that nobody could be in any doubt as to how much the anthem affects him and how much he loves his country. The basketball is generally the best for this, perhaps because the venues are smaller than the football or baseball stadiums and peer pressure prevents people from remaining seated and yapping on to their friends or shovelling gimbap down their throats.

At this game though we had something different for a change. Instead of a recording of the national anthem we got a bunch of kids playing it on a variety of brass instruments. They did pretty well although I’m still not familiar enough with the tune to be able to spot any bum notes.

The National Anthem.

The National Anthem. And a couple of cheerleaders.

Neither of the teams is having a particularly good season, although both are on the fringes of a play-off spot. That’s not overly difficult though when six of the ten teams qualify. Mind you, I’d watched Sonic Boom beat league leaders SK Knights with ease a couple of weeks earlier so who knows what might happen if they can sneak into the post-season games.

Not bad seats at all.

Not bad seats at all.

Both the Americans on the home side did pretty well, Ira Clark contributing twenty-one points with Curtis Withers clocking up thirteen points from his fifteen minutes of fame.

jjjjj collects a rebound for the Sakers.

Ira Clark collects a rebound for the Sakers.

For the visitors we saw a lot less of Jasper Johnson than I’d expected. He went off early in the first quarter and I thought that he’d called it a day. He came back out though in the third and KT were a much better team with him on court. He scored twenty-six points in only nineteen minutes, missing only two shots out of the eighteen he took. His teammate Ryan Wright wasn’t quite the same scoring machine, notching just the eight points in what was a lot more game time than he’d usually get.

Jasper Johnson gets his shot away.

Jasper Johnson gets another two points.

And so, who won? Well, with thirty-odd seconds left Sonic Boom were trailing by seven. They scored a three pointer and then when the Sakers put the ball back in to play they nicked it and stole another two. That made it just the two points difference with still thirty-odd seconds left. If the Sakers didn’t score on their next possession Sonic Boom would probably get a single chance to level or win it. LG didn’t get the basket and at the other end Jasper Johnson claimed the two points that tied the score and took us into five minutes of extra time.

This kid seemed less than impressed with the tight finish.

This kid seemed less than impressed with the tight finish.

The additional period was more than I’d planned for but there was a 7-Eleven in the concourse and so I was able to pick up another can of Hite. The momentum stayed with the visitors and they managed to take and keep the lead, eventually finishing up ahead by ninety five points to ninety two. The win kept Sonic Boom in sixth place with Sakers just outside the play-offs in seventh.

On a groundhopping note, that’s the tenth and final one of the KBL venues ticked off. It’s not quite a 92 Club achievement but it has helped to get me around the country and provided a few good days out.

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