|Jeb Ivey of the Nilan Bisons celebrating after Game 4 of the Finnish league play-off finals (photo: Bisons /Eveliina Toivola)|
Championship celebrations are going on in Loimaa again only this time, after the Nilan Bisons captured the Finnish Korisliiga title.
For the first time in their history, the Bisons won the top flight and they did so with a 3-1 play-off finals triumph over Joensuun Kataja.
The Bisons' triumph marked the first time a newcomer to the league has won the title since 1984.
YMCA Helsinki had done it in 1984, but they had already played 32 league seasons prior to their promotion in 1983.
This was the first season in the top flight for the Bisons.
Coached by Greg Gibson, the eventual champions had finished runners-up to Kataja during the regular season.
"This championship campaign began on the first day, when this group of players believed in a common dream, and made every effort to achieve that dream," Gibson said.
Kataja went into the play-offs on the back of 31 wins and nine defeats while the Bisons and Pyrinto were each 28-12 and Kauhajoki 23-17.
The Bisons swept Lappeenranta NMKY, 3-0, in their opening play-off series and then overcame Pyrinto, 3-2.
Kataja brushed aside Salon Vilpas in the first round before beating Torpan Pojat, 3-1.
Those results meant that Finnish basketball had the title showdown that many had expected.
The Bisons struck the first blow of the series by travelling to the Mehtimaen Jaahalli arena and winning Game 1, 85-80.
Kataja trailed just 78-77 with less than 2:00 remaining but Jeb Ivey calmed the visitors' nerves with a three-ball and he then sank a couple of free-throws as the Bisons held on for a thrilling win.
|Finland international Mikko Koivisto had a game-high 26 points in the Bisons' first victory in the finals|
Finland international Mikko Koivisto had a game-high 26 points for the Bisons.
In Game 2, the clash went to overtime and Kataja prevailed, 88-85, with veteran Sami Lehtoranta's 21 points pacing the winners.
The Bisons were not to be denied, though.
They hit the road and won Game 3, 91-85.
Once again, the contest went to overtime and Martin Zeno had 22 points for the winners.
In Game 4, a very different script was written because the home side finally won.
The Bisons were in front 16-15 at the end of the first quarter and then raced to a 45-30 half-time lead.
Kataja closed the gap to five in the third quarter and six in the fourth but the hosts prevailed for the first time in the series.
Zeno again had 22 points for the victors as they claimed an 83-66 victory to clinch a 3-1 series win.
"We weren't perfect," Gibson said.
"We made silly mistakes, especially in attack, but our character was another crucial factor."