SEOUL – At the end of a thrilling final, 42-year-old Colombian Robinson Morales fell into the arms of his Heroes teammates as the match winner. The team led by Filippos Kasidokostas, Mi-rae Lee and Robinson Morales sensationally won the final match against the Phoenix team with among others Frédéric Caudron, Hyun Min Seo and Birol Uymaz. The score after the last and seventh clash between the two best teams of this PBA team league was 4-3 in Heroes’ favour, which had its best players in Colombian Robinson Morales, Greek Filippos Kasidokostas and Korean leading lady Mi-rae Lee. Actually, the final score was 4-2, because Phoenix started with a 1-0 margin after its leading position after the regular matches. The catch-up race was sensational and ultimately fatal for the team led by Frédéric Caudron, Hyun-Min Seo and Birol Uymaz.
Three days were scheduled for this final between Heroes and Phoenix, the two teams that advanced to the final of the play-offs. The challenger, Heroes, had already played one match against Laon in the semi-final of the play-offs and three other matches against Winners in the first round of the play-offs. That’s why Heroes was very used to the playing conditions. The other finalist, Phoenix, had not yet been able to test the equipment, because, as the leader of the regular season, the team with Caudron/Morales/Uymaz had to wait for the opponent for the final was known.
The first meeting between the two finalists quickly tilted in favour of challenger Heroes with a devastating 4-0 and Heroes lady Mi-rae Lee taking the win in both singles and doubles. A difficult start for the favourite Phoenix, who saw the challenger equalise: 1-1.
From the second match onwards, Phoenix took over again, first by a 4-1 victory with wins for the Caudron/Uymaz couple and Ye-eun Kim at the expense of Mi-rae Lee, Birol Uymaz in the singles and then Hyun-min Seo who won by a one point margin against Robinson Morales in the fifth. That resulted in a 2-1 lead for Phoenix. The third meeting between the two teams was also clearly in Phoenix’ favour, as it won again 4-1 thanks to the Caudron/Hyun Min Seo pair, Ye-eun Kim, who beat Mi-rae Kim for the second time in a row, and to Caudron, who beat Filippos Kasidokostas in the singles. Phoenix, with a 3-1 lead, was therefore only one win away from the title.
But Heroes, with its back against the wall, went into the final sprint with lots of fighting spirit and conviction. The fourth game was won 4-2, among others by a 15-9 victory from Kasidokostas/Morales over Caudron/Uymaz. Mi-rae Lee dominated her match against Yu-ram Cha, Kasidokostas defeated Hyun Min Seo and laid the foundation for the win. Phoenix did win the next two sets, thanks to the mixed Uymaz/Cha and Caudron’s single. But Heroes grabbed the final win with captain Gyeong-Seop Jung, who beat Ji-Seung Han in the 6th sessions. Thus, Heroes came back to 2-3.
The outcome for the fifth session, on the final day, was simple: when Phoenix won, the championship was won. When Heroes won, a decisive match was needed in the final. The duo Caudron/Seo beat the pair Kasidokostas/Morales, Mi-rae Lee balanced the two teams at the expense of Ye-eun Kim, Caudron gave his team the lead again against Byeong-ho Kim, but Morales/Mi-rae Lee went on to win, Birol Uymaz beat Nam-soo Kim, so Phoenix was one set away from the title with the meeting between Ji-seung Han and Gyeong-seop Jung still to play.
Ji-seun Han led 9-7 for Phoenix, but he missed four times in a row, allowing Heroes to fight back spectacularly. It finally resulted in a shoot-out with extreme tension. Nam-soo Kim and Mi-rae Lee scored, while Caudron, HM Seo, Yu-ram Cha and Ji-seung Han all missed. The last player for Heroes, Kasidokostas, scored, giving his team a comfortable lead. Uymaz appeared at the table with the assignment to score 4 times for the title, but the Turk missed after one point. The Heroes team reacted elated and unexpectedly offered themselves a last deciding game by the 4-3 score in this match. And thus a 3-3 score in the final standings.
In that crucial 6th meeting, the Heroes team started off with a win. In the second set, Yu-ram Cha faced Mi-rae Lee. The Heroes got back, in the 3rd set, Uymaz was swept aside by a heroic Nam-soo Kim (15-1) and Heroes therefore led 2-1 before the mixed doubles, which they rarely lost. Morales and Mi-rae Lee defeated Ye-eun Kim/Hyun-min Seo 15-13 in 7 innings. Heroes now led 3-1 and were only one set away from the title. Therefore Phoenix could not afford any slip-ups and had to win the two remaining games.
Robinson Morales faced a furious Hyun-min who made an 8 run at the start of the match. Then, the match came to 12-2 and 12-10, Morales was back, Seo missed one set ball at 14-10, a second at 14-11, a third at 14-13, a fourth, and then Morales faced his first set ball for the title. The Colombian scored, won 15-14 and offered his team the 4-1 lead, followed by an explosion of joy from the Heroes team. The winner received 1.000 million won, the equivalent of 75,000 euros, to be divided among Mi-rae Lee, Gyeong-seop Jung, Byeong-ho Kim, Nam-soo Kim, Filippos Kasidokostas and of course the match-winner Robinson Morales.
The individual ranking in the final match:
1 Mi-rae Lee 9 wins, 3 losses, 1,085 on average, high run 4.
2 Frédéric Caudron 7-2 – 1,649 – 7
3 Robinson Morales 6-3 – 1,866 – 7
4 Birol Uymaz 5-3 – 1,239 – 7
5 Filippos Kasidokostas 3-2 – 1,800 – 9
6 Hyun Min Seo 3-6 – 1,218 – 8
7 GS Jung 3-3 – 1,051 – 8
8 NS Kim 2-4 – 1,229 – 7
9 Ye-eun Kim 2-4 – 0,797 – 4
11 Bora Kim 1-4 – 1,152- 3.