They almost broke the WKBL record for most points lost in a game. Busan BNK Thumb, which is having a difficult season, has added another loss to its losing streak.
The team suffered a 62-84, 22-point loss at home against the Cheongju KB Stars in the fifth round of the 2023-2024 Woori WON Women’s Professional Basketball League at Sajik Indoor Gymnasium in Busan on Saturday.
With the loss, BNK dropped to 4-17 overall (0.190 winning percentage) and remained in last place (6th). The team also lost its eighth straight game against Woori Bank on March 20, extending its losing streak from last year to eight games.
Last season, BNK had its best season since its inception. They went on a six-game winning streak at the beginning of the regular season, and then went on a four-game winning streak at the end of the season, eventually finishing second in the regular season. They then swept the playoffs with Samsung Life in two games to reach their first championship game. Although they ended the season with three straight losses to Woori Bank, BNK became a “beautiful loser.
This season, however, things were different. We had difficulties in preparation before the season, and the fact that we had to play away from home due to a problem with the rental of Sajik Gymnasium was painful. As a result, they couldn’t get off to a good start. “Last season, we were lucky with timing and luck,” said Lee So-hee, the team’s mainstay. I think we all had complacency going into this season, thinking, ‘We’ll make the playoffs,'” confessed Lee.
At least early on, the playoffs were within striking distance of fourth place. However, since the scandal at the club’s secretariat was revealed by a media outlet in mid-December last year, BNK has been performing poorly with one win and nine losses in 10 games. The fact that the last four games of the first half of the season were played against the worst opponents in the league (Woori Bank-KB Stars-Woori Bank-KB Stars) also played a role.
As the losing streak continued, injuries also piled up. Second-year guard Kim Min-ah is out for the season after tearing a ligament in her left elbow while landing after a contested shot in the Hana OneQ on Nov. 13. She underwent surgery on Nov. 18 and is expected to be out for six months before returning to the court. The news was especially unfortunate as she had been performing well in her limited playing time.
With a match on the 26th, the stakes were high. Kim Han-byul and Lee So-hee, the two main players, were both left off the roster. BNK head coach Park Jung-jeong said, “(Kim) Han-byul will be rested for one game due to knee cartilage pain from overexertion against Samsung Life Insurance (on the 20th). (Lee) So-hee said her ankle is not good. I’m going to give her a break as she felt the pain.” Kim Han-byul was especially worrisome as she also suffered a knee injury on Nov. 20 against Samsung Life Insurance and missed the game.
To fill the void left by the two players, Park has used rookie Kim Jung-eun as a starter this season. Park said, “I asked (Kim) to do what she did in practice. When you play as the No. 2, you have a lot of time to touch the ball, so don’t spill it,” Park said. “I want her to find her confidence because she’s stressed about defense,” he added.
However, BNK did not play well. In the first quarter, KB Stars fought back to tie the game at 15-15 after briefly resting their ace Park Ji-soo. However, their defense quickly collapsed and they allowed back-to-back turnovers, ending the first quarter with an eight-point deficit. In the second quarter, the gap widened as Lee Hye-ju, Lee Yoon-mi, and Kang Isul were hit hard.
BNK managed to close the first half with a 16-point lead, but they completely collapsed in the third quarter. They gave up 12 points and 4 rebounds, including 2 three-pointers and 6-of-6 free throws, to Kang-iul alone. On top of that, Kim Min-jung and Heo Ye-eun also scored in their own ways. In the end, BNK gave up a whopping 33 points in the third quarter alone. At one point, the deficit was as high as 40 points, and it looked like it was going to be their worst game yet.
When KB Stars sent all of their starters to the bench in the fourth quarter, including Park Ji-soo, Kang Isul, and Yeom Yoon-ah, BNK took advantage of the opportunity and went on the offensive, managing to close the game with a 22-point lead.
On this day, BNK almost made women’s professional basketball history. The largest single-game margin of defeat in the WKBL, which began in 1998, was 43 points (60-103) by Kookmin Bank (now KB Stars) against Shinsegae on June 16, 2000. This season, the previous record was a 27-point loss (51-78) by Shinhan Bank to Hana OneQ on Dec. 6 last year. They almost made history.
However, BNK still has one dishonor left. It’s the longest losing streak since the team’s inception. The team had previously lost nine games in a row twice in the 2020-21 season, and is now just one loss away from tying the record. There is a glimmer of hope in that their next game is against fifth-ranked Shinhan Bank (Jan. 29 in Incheon), but it’s still an uneasy situation.