This weekend saw the beginning of the basketball season. Autumn is almost upon us but it was still a warm sunny day as I made my way to the Jamsil Student Gymnasium for the game between SK Knights and Incheon Elephants.
It was quite busy outside, with plenty of old biddies selling food and drink. I bought a ticket for the second tier, near to the half-way line, for thirteen thousand won.
As the teams warmed up I recognised Aaron Haynes amongst the SK players. He had played for LG Sakers last season. I thought that he’d done ok with them so it was surprising to see him take a step downwards to the team that had finished bottom of the league. SK Knights are now the fourth Korean side that he has played for so I presume that he must like living over here. He went on to have a reasonable game, scoring sixteen points during his time on court.
The second non-Korean player for the home side was Chris Alexander. He’s a 7’1“ centre who also turned out for the Sakers last year. As with his teammate Haynes he’s also been around the world a bit, with stints in China and the Philippines as well as a spell with the USA –D League side Sioux Falls Skyforce. As the second choice non-Korean he only played thirteen minutes but was able to contribute a relatively impressive eleven points.
Carlos Powell was the first choice foreign player for Incheon. He’d played for them a few years ago before returning to Korea this season. If ever the term globetrotter was to be applied to a basketball player outside of Harlem it would be him. Apparently he has played in Portugal, New Zealand, Ukraine, Iran, Israel, China and Germany as well as the USA – D League. He rattled home twenty two points in his twenty seven minutes on court.
Fellow American DeAngelo Casto made up the quartet of non-Koreans. He’s only twenty-two and left college a year early to go and play in Turkey last season. He didn’t make as much of an impact as Powell but still contributed six points from his twelve minutes playing time.
So, that’s the introductions out of the way. As for the game itself, it had the most exciting finish I’ve ever seen. In basketball that is, obviously I’m not counting Massimo’s injury time winners against Basel and Bucharest.
As the game went into its final minute SK were a point ahead, 79-78. They managed to keep it that way and with ten seconds remaining Incheon gathered themselves for one last play. Carlos Powell waited until there were only a couple of seconds to go and then drove at the basket. The shot went up, hit the rim and bounced back out. As the players scrambled for the loose ball the buzzer went for full-time, 79-78 to SK Knights.
The music started, the streamers were released from the ceiling and the cheerleaders dashed onto the court to celebrate with the SK players. After what must have been around thirty seconds it became apparent that the Incheon players were protesting that one of them had been fouled somewhere in the last play. The officials went over to the fellas sat behind the desks and a few moment later the clock was reset to show 1.2 seconds remaining.
It was SK’s turn to protest at that point, but it made no difference. The cheerleaders had to sit back down and the bloke with the brush came out to sweep up the streamers. Incheon were given the ball at the sideline, it was tossed to a heavily marked Powell who was able to get his shot away just as the buzzer sounded for a second time. It dropped through the hoop. 80-79.
It was Incheon’s turn to celebrate now whilst the home fans didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The lads sat next to me were just silently shaking their heads in disbelief. It wouldn’t surprise me if that first game of the season also turned out to be their last. As a neutral though, you couldn’t beat it for a finish.