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(Asiad) Compelling comeback reminiscent of 2002 victory for men's hoops team

2014/10/04 04:52

By Yoo Jee-ho and Park Sojung

INCHEON, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- After their gripping, come-from-behind win over Iran to win the gold medal in men's basketball at the Asian Games on Friday, the South Korean players partied like it was 2002 again.

Their dramatic win was reminiscent of the Asian Games gold medal victory in 2002, when the competition was held in another South Korean city, Busan.

At the time, South Korea trailed China by seven points with 32.5 seconds to play. Miraculously, South Korea tied the score in regulation, with a layup, followed by a steal and a three-pointer, and another basket. South Korea won the game 102-100 in overtime, slashing the Asian basketball giant that featured NBA All-Star Yao Ming.

On Friday, South Korea was down 75-70 with about two minutes remaining. Later, even the South Korean head coach Yoo Jae-hak admitted he felt there was only "a 10 percent chance" that his team could win.

His players apparently had other ideas.

Guard Yang Dong-geun, up to then one of South Korea's scapegoats with team-worst five turnovers, trained a three-pointer to make it 75-73. After an Iranian miss, Kim Jong-kyu scored on a lay-in as he was getting fouled.

Kim, the youngest player for South Korea at 23, stepped up to the line and made the free throw for a one-point lead, with 36.3 seconds remaining.

South Korea made more clutch free throws down the stretch and Iran missed open chances toward the finish, missing out on its first-ever Asian Games gold.

South Korean veteran Kim Joo-sung, 34, was the only member on this year's team who played in that 2002 gold medal game.

"This victory took me back in time to 2002," Kim said. "Back then, China felt like a huge wall, but it wasn't as bad today. There were some anxious moments in the fourth quarter today but we were able to pull it off again, like in 2002."

   Moon Tae-jong, who led South Korea with 19 points, said he didn't think the team would win the game until the clock ran out.

He made some key free throws down the stretch but missed one of his last two, giving Iran a fighting chance to win the game at the buzzer.

He said no one was more relieved when Iran missed a chance to go ahead or tie the score on its final possession.

"It was a relief because I missed one of my free throws," said Moon, a naturalized South Korean born to an African-American father and a South Korean mother. "If we lost, it would've been my fault."

   As it turned out, no one had to be held accountable. They could all just party like it was 2002 again.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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