Ariel Slow & Steady Comes Up Victorious In 3X West Regional
LOS ANGELES – Ariel Slow & Steady lived up to their name Saturday.
The team came back from dropping a game during pool play and then falling behind to start their quarterfinal game to win the 2022 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X West Region tournament on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles to ultimately clinch a spot in the 3X Nationals next spring.
Also joining Ariel Slow & Steady at Nationals will be Creators Basketball, Ball Is Life and Los Angeles.
The winning squad was made up of the foursome of former Baylor University standout King McClure, Craig Moore, Pawel Rafal Buczak and Damon Huffman, a member of the USA Basketball Men’s Team that won the 2019 FIBA 3x3 World Cup with a 7-0 record.
After dropping a game early in pool play, Ariel Slow & Steady found themselves in a three-way tie with Creators Basketball and Los Angeles. Point differential made them the No. 3 seed, and they were forced to play a quarterfinal game against OMC.
After going down 8-3 early in the game, a barrage of 2-pointers from McClure and Moore found Ariel Slow & Steady with a 16-13 lead that they would never relinquish. Two free throws ultimately clinched the game, and Ariel Slow & Steady moved on to the semifinals.
The semifinals matched up Ariel Slow & Steady with Pool B winner Ball Is Life. The game remained close until McClure got loose for an emphatic dunk to put his team up, 14-11. McClure continued his scoring barrage for the rest of the game, hitting shots from outside and getting to the rim at will. After a few more buckets from McClure, Ariel Slow & Steady found themselves in the championship game.
The other semifinal, being played simultaneously, saw Creators Basketball face off against Los Angeles in a rematch of pool play. Los Angeles, a team many expected to win, and a veteran 3x3 team, led most of the way before falling late, 21-20. In a game that featured many foul calls and very physical play, Creators Basketball did just enough to reach the finals.
The finals provided another Pool A rematch, with Ariel Slow & Steady facing off against Creators Basketball.
Ariel Slow & Steady got off to a blazing start behind McClure and found themselves up 8-2. McClure started hot from beyond the arc and scored seven of the first eight points for Ariel Slow & Steady. After that, Moore and Huffman also got hot from deep, and the game never really got close after that. Following one final free throw from Buczak, Ariel Slow & Steady cruised to a 21-14 win.
McClure credited their team play as the secret to Ariel Slow & Steady’s success.
“I think it was our ball movement,” McClure said. “We put an emphasis on sharing the ball, keeping it moving and I think that is what helped us be successful today.”
After a slow start to the tournament, McClure really caught fire in bracket play, scoring 11 of his team’s 21 points in the championship game. With a veteran team, Ariel Slow & Steady will look to make some noise at the national tournament later this year.
The West Regional in Los Angeles was the first of two regionals taking place this fall, with the East Regional taking place at Maspeth High School in Queens, New York, from Oct. 8-9.