Lucas Mondelo and César Rupérez win their 2nd Chinese League in a row
Spanish NT coach Lucas Mondelo and his assistant César
Rupérez made history again after winning the Chinese League for the second consecutive season with Shanxi Rui Flame, in a Championship that has been probably the strongest in the last years with world-class players like Maya Moore, Liz Cambage, Sylvia Fowles, Nneka Ogwumike, Lauren Jackson or Britney Griner.
Our coaches won the Championship with brilliant basketball, being the best offensive team and beating the record in History for most consecutive wins in Chinese League.
In early February, Lucas
Mondelo was named the head coach of the North team in the Chinese League All Star and just after that he returned to Taiyuan to prepare with Cesar Rupérez the first round of the playoffs against Bayi, one of the two Army teams.
The first game of this round had a close first quarter (17-18) and not much more since the Mondelo girls won the game 76-98 after leading by 30 points in some moments of the game.
The second game was easy for Shanxi after leading by 24 points at half time and a final 93-76 gave them the pass to the Semifinals.
Britney Griner´s Zhejiang, the big favourite to win the League after their big investment and the quality of their Chinese players was the rival in Semifinals after they defeated Nneka Ogwumike´s Guandong.
As an example, Jinzhu Wu, who had been the Finals MVP last season playing for coach Mondelo moved to Zhejiang this season to make more money.
Zhejiang roster was so good that in these 3 Semifinal games she didn´t play a single second because Zhejiang coach prefered to play with other players.
The first Semifinal game was a very tough game and Shanxi was losing all the game due to a very bad start.
However, Shanxi managed to force two overtimes and had two shots to win the game but finally Zhejiang won 100-91 and was leading in the series 1-0.
The second game was played in Taiyuan and it couldn´t start worse for Rupérez and Mondelo´s Shanxi since after 15 minutes of play the scoreboard was 22-37. Too much difference to recover against such a great roster as Zhejiang.
A little improvement in the last minutes of the second quarter left Shanxi 9 points down at half time and with some hope to try not to finish their League in this game.
After half time and with some new adjustments, the situation changed and a great third quarter (27-15) of Shanxi and a close fourth quarter took the game to a last shot for Zhejiang to win the game.
Fortunately a good defense of Shanxi didn´t allow Zhejiang to score and Shanxi won 81-80 forcing a third game to decide who would reach the Finals.
After each game in these playoffs, the adjustments to the game plan made by our coaches Mondelo and Rupérez made Shanxi compete better while fortunately the same thing didn´t happen in the other benches and their game plans were almost always repeated and predictable.
Good preparation, improved chemistry and a real superstar performance by Maya Mooore (42 points 21 rebounds and 63 efficiency) made Shanxi win the 3rd game 80 to 72 and qualify for the Final for second year in a row.
Britney Griner played also real well in semifinals, averaging 34 points 10 rebounds and 38.5 efficiency per game.
Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, Liz Cambage´s Beijing defeated Sylvia Fowles Shanghai qualifying also for the Final.
With no time to rest, the Finals started and Beijing stole the first win in Taiyuan, beating Shanxi 86 to 88 with 48 points 21 rebounds and +58 efficiency by Liz Cambage.
After this hard loss, the new goal was to get one win in Beijing so that the series could return to Taiyuan in a fourth game. A very difficult task since Bejing had destroyed Shanxi in the last two games played in Beijing.
Lucas Mondelo and César Rupérez adjusted the game plan, preparing a spider net around Cambage and choosing which players were allowed to shoot or not (voodoo defense). They also prepared how to collapse all of Beijing possible zone offenses.
Shanxi played an amazing second game winning (97-87), confusing Beijing, "minimizing" Cambage (38 points) and with Maya Moore in God mode (49 points and 59 efficiency) leading her team.
To win one game in Beijing was very difficult but to win both was almost impossible.
Howerver Shanxi had a great first quarter (22-31) and the players of Mondelo and Ruperez reached halftime leading by 7 points (42-49).
It was time for the chinese referees to decide the game for Beijing and they didn´t even call foul when two of the post players of Shanxi had to go to the hospital due to unsportsmanlike agressions. Then the key play of the game arrived.
Japanase guard Yuko Oga suffered at least three very clear fouls that weren´t called before the referees called her for 8 second violation.
Lucas Mondelo decided not to continue the farce and forced the refs to give him a technical foul.
With the referees conditioned by the spanish coach show in the last play, Mondelo called a play for Maya Moore so that she would attack Cambage in a pick and roll going to the left, which they had already detected as one of the defensive areas where the aussie has problems.
Maya attacked her and one of the referees whistled.. noticing just after whistling that it would be Cambage´s fifth foul.
The referee wanted to disappear but the call was already made so there was no solution now.
Shanxi was smart playing the final minutes without Cambage and despite of course the referees would also foul-out Maya Moore, it was too late and Shanxi won the game to be just one more game away from the Championship.
The fourth game was quite easier, with Shanxi already knowing the "secret" to reduce the impact of Cambage under the defensive scheme of "Spiderman" Mondelo.
Finally, Mondelo´s Shanxi won the fourth game 82 to 73 and therefore Lucas Mondelo and Cesar Rupérez have won their second consecutive Chinese League, almost a miracle knowing their rosters and the rosters of other Chinese teams during these 2 years.
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