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Vancouver Titans crush Overwatch League in Stage 1

Vancouver Titans DPS Kim "Haksal" Hyo-jong, middle, celebrates after his team's 4-3 victory against the San Francisco Shock in the Overwatch League Stage 1 finals on Sunday at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

No team in the world of esports takes the adage "the best defense is a good offense" more to heart than the Overwatch League's Vancouver Titans.

Vancouver was built from the charismatic and aggressive roster of RunAway, a Contenders Korea team. The former minor leaguers came to Los Angeles at the beginning of the year to compete for the expansion franchise in the second season of the Overwatch League.

And in the first stage of the season, the Titans obliterated the belief that a defense-first approach was the best way to play Overwatch. They finished the first-ever unbeaten stage by defeating the San Francisco Shock 4-3 in the best-of-seven final.

Vancouver finished Stage 1 at 7-0 in the regular season and 10-0 including the postseason. Including their minor league stint, the Titans roster hasn't lost a game since July 22, 2018.

"Starting off with Contenders, we finished it off -- we won Contenders," said Vancouver main tank Park "Bumper" Sang-beom. "Now, we're in Overwatch League, and we won Overwatch League Stage 1. I am the happiest man alive."

Every week, the prevailing question with the Titans was if their throw-caution-to-the-wind style would be figured out. Unlike the most dominant team in Overwatch League's year-plus history, the New Excelsior, which plays a methodical style, Vancouver's victories at times appeared sloppy. They'd be pushed to the deciding map of a best-of-five series by teams like the Chengdu Hunters and Guangzhou Charge, two teams that finished in the bottom half of the league standings in Stage 1.

But at the end of every single week, the Titans would answer skepticism with results. If a fight didn't work the first time, they'd go right back at it. In the final with San Francisco, that never rang more true, as Vancouver would lose all the King-of-the-Hill formatted maps (Control and Assault) but come alive on the Escort maps where their forward motion carried them to emphatic round wins.

On Rialto, the final map of the series, Vancouver didn't shy away from the play that got them to the final. They flung themselves at the Shock with Bumper leading the charge and ran through the unexpected finalists to beat the Overwatch League record time on the map by a minute.

When the heavyweight title fight came to the closing moments, Vancouver threw continuous haymakers, deciding to go out as they came onto the stage: swinging.

For San Francisco, the lead up to Stage 2 will be a time of reflection for a team that carefully built its roster since the inception of the league.

Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Shock's process was centered around two young prodigal talents, Jay "sinatraa" Won and Matthew "super" DeLisi. The two American teenagers didn't reach the 18-year-old age requirement to play in the Overwatch League until almost the middle of the inaugural season. In putting so much attention on their teenage talent, the first year for San Francisco was almost a litmus test of sorts for the Shock, seeing which pieces alongside sinatraa and super to build around.

Before the 2019 season started, the Shock implemented their second-year blueprint, splurging during the offseason on free agents after securing what they believed to be their future at head coach and the core of the squad.

In the do-or-die moments of the series, it was the brotherhood that the Titans have built throughout the years that upended the talented but still inexperienced Shock. The chemistry Vancouver built over its time in South Korea as RunAway is undeniable, with the team's mastery of the current three-tank/three-support meta (referred to as "GOATS") being the proof of the trust each teammate put in one another.

When the championship was on the line and it appeared as if the Shock could pull off a miracle goal-line stand for the ages to win it all, there was no hesitation from the Titans. They barreled into the end zone, Bumper at the front, flex support Lee "Twilight" Joo-seok right behind, and rest of the team in tow, ready to either win or lose as a team.

Before the Titans left for Los Angeles, Yoon "Runner" Dae-hoon -- their former leader, older brother figure and founder of RunAway -- gave them one last message to hang onto when they stepped onto the flight that would carry them into their futures.

"He assured us that we could take the top spot in the Overwatch League," Bumper told ESPN during the preseason.

Back in South Korea, Runner and Lee "Flowervin" Hyuna, his wife and the current manager of the RunAway squad, must be smiling. As they train the next generation of Overwatch superstars -- the new-look RunAway followed in Vancouver's footsteps and won the most-recent South Korea Contenders season -- they'll know their proteges are in good hands overseas.

No matter what color uniform they put on or what name they're called when they walk out of the entrance tunnel, they'll always be a family.