Underdog Hansae sweep to the top of the WKBL

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Underdog Hansae sweep to the top of the WKBL

The Woori Bank Hansae have completed their surprising run this season with a sweep of the best-of-five Women’s Korean Basketball League championship series against the Samsung Life Bichumi.

In the deciding third game at Yongin Gymnasium Tuesday night, the Hansae beat their hosts 66-53 to lift their first champion trophy in eight years.

Tina Thompson had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Hansae while Lim Young-hee added 14 points and seven rebounds. Bae Hye-yoon also helped with 11 points and six rebounds.

Woori won the first game 62-42 on Friday and the second 77-67 on Sunday. It’s the first time in seven years a team other than the Shinhan Bank S-Birds has won the championship in the six-team league.

The Hansae, who was the bottom dweller over the four previous seasons, grabbed an unlikely lead early on and finished first in the regular season with 24 victories and 11 losses. The S-Birds, who finished second in the regular season, were knocked out in a best-of-three playoff series against the Bichumi 2-1.

This season the league once again allowed foreign players for the first time in six years. Thompson, the all-time leading scorer in the U.S. WNBA, contributed to the Hansae with 21.62 points and 11.33 rebounds per game.

Wi Sung-woo, former assistant coach for Shinhan, has managed the Hansae for the season while Chun Joo-won, a former Shinhan star, helped him as a assistant coach.

Coach Wi said that he was pleased to have kept a promise he made before the season that he would build a team that no team could overcome.

He said that he won’t be complacent next year. “What’s important is that the players keep improving and that we become a stronger team,” Wi said. “Of course, we will set winning as the goal, but it’s already significant that we’ve given the impression that we’ve improved a lot.”

At the third game on Tuesday, Woori players wore black ribbons in memory of coach Chun’s mother, who died of a heart attack on Monday. After the final buzzer, the players embraced Chun, who came to watch the game.

“Some might see it negatively that she was here in the middle of her mother’s funeral, but Chun came to help the team win,” Wi said.

Lim, the Hansae captain, was named the MVP of the championship series. She moved from the Shinsegae Coolcat in 2009 and had to see her new team finish last for four straight years.

“We seemed to continuously be losing at one point, so there was a time when I didn’t like going out on the court,” Lim said. “This was the best year for me.”

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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