Xi’an Liangjiatan International School hosted the first edition of the Chang’an Cup basketball tournament on January 15 and 16, 2021. The tournament saw eleven teams from eight schools competing for the championship in boys’ and girls’ divisions. The tournament attracted Xi’an’s three foreign national schools, international departments from the city’s most prestigious local high schools, and the Xi’an’s only foreign language school. By all accounts, the event was a resounding success.
The Chang’an Cup was an idea conceived by the XLIS Athletics Committee. The goal was to create and host an annual tournament for international senior high schools that becomes a premier sporting event in Northwest China and provides lasting memories for all participants. With this vision in mind, the entire XLIS community mobilized its resources to ensure the inaugural event lived up to its lofty aspirations.
Senior leadership, coaches, teachers, support staff, and students worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the tournament. A sporting event of this magnitude had never before been held in Xi’an for international schools. Not only would 23 games be played over two days, but XLIS pledged to offer visiting teams bussing, dormitory, and food services. Coordinating these different aspects of the event required clear communication and demonstrated that XLIS was committed to serving the entire international community in Xi’an.
The teams began arriving at about 1:30 PM on Friday to a welcome table adorned with memorabilia carrying the official tournament logo and glimmering with silverware to be presented to the champions and outstanding players. After receiving a tournament towel and water bottle, the participating teams made their way to the locker rooms to prepare for their first matches. Student and teacher volunteers continued to work hard right until tip-off to ensure the gyms were ready for the tournament that was about to commence.
For some schools it was their first time visiting the XLIS campus. They stood in awe as they entered the Dragon Ascension Gym with the stands lowered and the tournament banner displayed on the large LED screen. Some teams took group photos, and most students were smiling from ear to ear. Unfortunately, due to updated epidemic prevention protocols, the games had to be played behind closed doors without spectators. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was abuzz with excitement among the participants and coaches. The prestige of the Chang’an Cup was beginning to materialize.
The boys’ division was up first on Friday with the eight participating schools divided into the Qin and Han groups. After round-robin play within the group, the top two teams would advance to the championship bracket, while the bottom two teams would play in a consolation bracket for fifth place. The action could not have been scripted any better, as the results of the eight Friday evening games set-up a must-win game in each group for Saturday morning at 8:00 AM.
XLIS’ very own Blue Dragons were in one of those matches. After narrowly losing to group favourites GXYZ-ICC Wild Cats by 3 points and hammering the Hanova Heroes by 26, the home team came up against XFLS (Xi’an Foreign Language School). The two teams with identical records battled hard to determine who would continue their quest to lift the Chang’an Cup.
While XFLS held a narrow lead for most of the game, XLIS clawed their way back from behind in the second half. With important baskets from Hiroto Ishikawa and immense rebounding from Robbie Ready, the Blue Dragons managed to pull ahead by 2 points with 6 minutes remaining. However, XFLS showed they were a team with grit and determination. The away team stormed ahead again with two baskets late to reclaim the lead and eventually win the game 21 to 19.
As a result, the XLIS Blue Dragons finished third in the Qin group and therefore dropped into the consolation bracket. In the consolation games they beat SSFBC Pegasus and Xi’an Tieyi-ICC Thunder Hawk to claim fifth place. The home team finished the tournament with the strongest defensive record, conceding the fewest points out of all eight teams. The result leaves coaches Luke Osborn and Chad Boudreau with a solid foundation to build upon as they begin planning for the 2021-2022 basketball season.
In the championship bracket, the GXYZ-ICC Wild Cats matched up with the XIS Warriors, and XFLS played the XAJDFZ Fire Wolves in the semi-finals. The Warriors shocked many in attendance as they handily beat the Qin group winners, the Wild Cats, 31 to 24. In the other semi-final, XFLS and the Fire Wolves played the most intense and emotional game of the tournament. The game extended into overtime and was ultimately decided on two free-throws scored by the Fire Wolves, which booked their ticket to the Chang’an Cup final.
In the girls’ division, the XLIS Blue Dragons were able to avenge their early season loss to GXYZ-ICC Wild Cats by beating them 10 to 4. Roxy Ready led the way with four points for the Blue Dragons. After the SSFBC Unicorns also beat the Wild Cats, an excellent final was set-up that featured the home team. The Chang’an Cup was prepared for two finals to be played simultaneously in both gyms.
Although many in attendance were hoping for a home team victory, the Unicorns took the game to the Blue Dragons in the girls’ division final. Led by All-Tournament Team player Zhao Yifei, the Unicorns scored 11 points on the Blue Dragons’ gritty defense. XLIS had trouble throughout the match getting good looks at the basket, as they were held to only one field goal scored by captain Amy Kim. The game finished 11-2 for the Unicorns, who claimed the first ever Chang’an Cup.
Still, the girls’ performance at the tournament was a major step in the right direction for the XLIS Blue Dragons. The girls’ team was started as student-initiated action through the CAS requirement for students in the Diploma Program at XLIS. Coached by high school students Robbie Ready and Edward Wang, the girls were able to build a culture of teamwork and pride throughout the season. With a little more practice, they will be back stronger than ever at next year’s tournament.
Meanwhile, on the main court in the Dragon Ascension Gym, the XAJDFZ Fire Wolves won the opening tip-off and immediately swarmed the XIS Warriors in the boys’ division final. Led by All-Tournament Team player Chris Sun, the Fire Wolves attacked early and often. They scored 11 quick points by double teaming the Warriors on defense and running in transition to score on the fast break. It looked like the Fire Wolves might run away with the final and blow the Warriors out.
However, after Chris Sun went down with a nosebleed and had to sit for the remaining seven minutes of the first half, the XIS Warriors thundered back. Led by Jake Han, who scored a tournament high 28 points in the final, XIS began slicing through the Fire Wolves’ pressure defense. The Warriors began to score at will and it seemed like almost every time they went up the court the scorer’s table was adding points to their total. The crowd in the gym swelled and cheered as they witnessed the onslaught by XIS. The game ended 56-31 for the Warriors who became the inaugural Chang’an Cup champions.
When the tournament finished, the teams gathered for the award ceremony. Individuals excellence was celebrated first with the presentation of the All-Tournament Team. The All-Tournament Team was a collection of the top players from each team that were voted by opposing coaches throughout the tournament. Then, the Sportsmanship award was awarded to the team in each division that best exemplified hard work and respect. Finally, the top three teams in each division were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals for their successes.
Boys’ All-Tournament Team:
XAJDFZ Fire Wolves – 13 Braden Wang
XAJDFZ Fire Wolves – 12 Chris Sun
XIS Warriors – 20 Jake Han
Xi’an Tieyi-ICC – 22 Jin Zhuofan
SSFBC Pegasus – 24 He Xuyang
Hanova Heroes – 7 Vincent Gibbs
GXYZ-ICC Wild Cats – 99 Mike Yin
XLIS Blue Dragons – 8 Hiroto Ishikawa
XLIS Blue Dragons – 22 Robbie Ready (Not pictured)
XFLS – 9 Chen Kaiwen
Girls’ Division All-Tournament Team:
GXYZ-ICC Wild Cats – 17 Wooken Yuan
XLIS Blue Dragons – 7 Roxy Ready
SSFBC Unicorns – 8 Zhao Yifei
XLIS Blue Dragons – 28 Ella Gao
SSFBC Unicorns – 6 Cui Xiyang
Every participant who attended the Chang’an Cup lauded the tournament’s organization and structure. For more than 24 hours the attendees were in a bubble where nothing mattered except the basketball being played. Students from the different schools exchanged WeChat contacts and took pictures with one another. Coaches connected and talked about building further bridges between schools to collaborate with different sports.