Asia's premier international club basketball tournament - the 2016 FIBA Asia Champions Cup - concluded in Chenzhou, China, on Sunday October 16 with the host country's representative China Kashgar winning the finale. This was Kashgar's (otherwise known as the Xinjiang Flying Tigers) first victory at the FIBA Asia CC, and they defeated Lebanese champions Al Riyadi in an entertaining final at Chenzhou's Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium.
Kashgar's squad were led by naturalized Philippines player and former NBA player Andray Blatche. Blatche was the star man in the final, scoring 22 points with 8 rebounds for China, while his teammates Darius Adams and Abudushalamu Abudurexiti added 19 each in the victory. China led most of the way, and survived a furious comeback by Al Riyadi in the final quarter to notch the 96-88 win. Fadi El Khatib (23) and Dewarick Spencer (19) were the leading scorers for the Lebanese squad.
Spencer was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.
A day earlier, China survived a mammoth clash against Petrochimi 90-86 in the semi-finals to secure their spot in the finale. The game featured numerous twists and turns, and China had to bounce back from an eight-point halftime deficit to take the advantage at the end of the tense game. Blatche was again the hero, leading with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Darius Adams added 20. Petrochimi were held at bay despite 26 point efforts by both Behnam Yackchali and James White. In the second semi-final, Al Riyadi had no problem blowing past Al Ahli, 107-79. Dewarick Spencer scored 26 for the winning side, while Fadi El Khatib (20) and Alade Aminu chipped in crucial points, too. Al Ahli's lone warrior was Samuel Young, who had 32 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
The FIBA Asia CC tipped off on October 8th with ten teams, and India's ONGC - who had qualified for the tournament with their Federation Cup victory - were placed in Preliminary Round Group A with four touch matchups. They were led by head coach Dinesh Kumar and India international talents like Amrit Pal Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, and Yadwinder Singh.
ONGC's second match was more of the same, this time against Iraq's Al Rayyan. Another poor offensive effort had ONGC playing catchup from the get go. Preston Knowles of Al Rayyan turned out to be sublime in this game, putting up 39 points and 14 rebounds in the 95-53 win. Al Rayyan's captain Mohamed Mohamed added 17 in the win. The lone bright spark for ONGC was India's star guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, who notched 20 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.
Another tough loss followed the next day for ONGC, this time against eventual finalists Al Riyadi of Lebanon. For ONGC, the duo of Amrit Pal Singh (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (18 points, 11 rebounds) played their best, but they got little help from the rest of the squad. Al Riyadi were led by Wael Arakji (21), Karim Zeinoun (20), and Dewarick Spencer (17) in the 91-65 win.
ONGC finished 0-4 in the tournament. Amrit Pal Singh ended with averages of 17 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, leading ONGC in both categories. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi chipped in with 16.5 ppg in the course of the tournament, too.
This was obviously not the improvement that ONGC were looking for, as basketball club representatives of India, after a similar finish at the last FIBA Asia CC back in 2013. ONGC simply did not have the depth and firepower to match the loaded squads that they faced, many of whom featured naturalized foreign players and other foreign recruits to add to their strenghts. The club tournaments will remain a weak point for Indian basketball internationally until India can begin their own proper basketball league and bring together more talents to play for Indian clubs.