Ahn Hye-ji (164 cm, G) led the charge, but it didn’t last.
Busan BNK lost 70-80 to Yongin Samsung Life in the regular season of the Woori Bank Woori WON 2023-2024 Women’s Professional Basketball League at Yongin Indoor Gymnasium on March 16. The team lost the last game of a four-game road trip. The team failed to win its first three-game winning streak of the season. Their record is 2 wins and 2 losses. They are alone in fourth place.
BNK signed Han Um-ji (180 cm, F) after the end of the 2021-2022 season, creating a formidable starting lineup of Ahn Hye-ji, Lee So-hee, Kim Han-byul, Han Um-ji, and Jin-an.
However, a strong lineup is useless if there is no one to hold the center. Ahn Hye-ji knew this. She played a variety of roles, including tempo control, passing, shooting, and defense.
Her unseen contributions were huge, but so were her visible records. Ahn first played every game of the 2022-2023 regular season. She averaged 10.5 points, 9.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds (1.2 offensive), and 1.0 steals in 36 minutes and 40 seconds per game.
She averaged a double-double for the season, so her performance was outstanding. Ahn’s performance led BNK to its first ever championship 캡틴토토.
In the 2023-2024 season, the team has an even better record than in the 2022-2023 season. In just the opening three games, she averaged 13.0 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds (3.0 offensive) in 37 minutes and 1 second per game. Not only are her assists up, but her points and rebounds are also up significantly.
With Ahn on the rise, she had to deal with Samsung Life’s young guard corps. Lee Ju-yeon (171 cm, G) and Shin Seul (170 cm, G) have more dominant senses, but can be outmatched in energy level. The lack of a guard to replace her was also a concern for Ahn.
Ahn struggled from the start. She drove the ball quickly, but couldn’t get her passes off against Shin Isul and Samsung Life’s team defense (Samsung Life switched to Lee Hae-ran for Ahn’s 2-on-2). She had limited options for “direct offense,” such as driving and mid-range jumpers.
Without Ahn Hye-ji to create derivative options, both BNK’s fast break and set offense lost their effectiveness. They were forced to shoot on incomplete opportunities, which led to Samsung Life’s fast break and early offense. Poor offense led to poor defense. With both offense and defense off balance, BNK ended the first quarter with a score of 11-22.
Ahn Hye-ji struggled at the beginning of the second quarter. She couldn’t even get past half court due to the strong defense of Shin Isul (170 cm, G). With Ahn on the bench, BNK fell behind 13-34 just 3 minutes and 14 seconds into the second quarter. Ahn was forced to go to the bench 3:59 into the second quarter.
However, Ahn’s rest was short-lived. Without her, the BNK offense and defense in front of her faltered, so she didn’t even get two minutes of rest.
After the substitution, she drove from the right wing to the left and scored four points in a row with a quick layup. It set the tone for BNK to catch up. However, BNK gave up 3 points to Shin Isul on defense at the end of the second quarter. They were unable to close the gap with Samsung Life at 26-45.
However, Ahn Hye-ji did not let go of her will to catch up. She joined Lee So-hee in the front of the zone defense. They disrupted Samsung Life’s ball flow, and one pass in the set offense led to a three-point play by Kim Han-byul (178 cm, F). Created the flow of BNK’s pursuit.
She had an assist, but the passing environment was poor. Ahn Hye-ji had to take matters into her own hands. She used her instant speed to beat Shin Isul and then beat Shin’s following defense with a layup. Ahn Hye-ji’s layup helped Samsung Life close the gap a bit. There were 5:19 left in the third quarter. The score was 35-50.
BNK’s mood improved a lot. Ahn Hye-ji was metallurgizing Samsung Life. She attacked Samsung Life’s defense with her fast breaks. BNK entered the single-digit threshold at 41-51 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
As a chaser, BNK had nothing to lose. So did Ahn Hye-ji, so she got faster. At the same time, she was calmer. That’s why she was able to assist on Lee So-hee’s three-pointer and Jin-an’s fast break score. BNK also threatened Samsung Life more at 58-63 with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter.
However, it takes more strength to catch up. This was even more so for BNK, who were the chasers throughout the game. They failed to gain the upper hand in the final battle. Ahn Hye-ji’s pace, which she led, also lost its shine.