Ariel McDonald produced a performance for the ages to guide Girona to their first ever piece of European silverware against Azovmash Mariupol in the EuroCup Final.
The 35-year old veteran scored a season high 25 points to spearhead a superb Girona display in the face of a valiant opponent in Azovmash.
McDonald opened the scoring with a three-pointer for Girona and remained lethal from that distance over the course of the game. It was his fifth trey of the night with 3:23 remaining that gave Girona a 71-67 lead and the momentum to finish off the game with a 79-72 win.
Chosen by the media as Final Four MVP, McDonald finished with 46 points on 10/16 three-point shooting in the semi-finals and final.
|Svetislav Pesic and Ariel Mc Donald discuss tactics during the final|
"This means a lot because I am 35 and it shows I still work hard," said McDonald.
"Today that hard work paid off."
McDonald made all four of his three-point shots in the first quarter as Girona struggled from inside the arc (1/7) but made five of their seven three point attempts to take a slender 17-15 lead into the break.
Azovmash, who were so impressive in their 74-73 defeat of Virtus Bologna in the semi-finals, refused to capitulate and stayed in contention. Kenan Bajramovic and Khalid El Amin were particularly impressive for the visitors, who trailed 40-36 at halftime.
Svetislav Pesic's side came out firing at the start of the second half, and once again it was McDonald who was behind every Girona move.
He had two assists and a free throw in an 14-5 opening salvo from Girona which saw them open up a 54-41 lead.
It was going to take a supreme effort from Azovmash to claw their way back into the game, but the Ukrainian side dug deep and put together a sensational five minutes of play.
Panagiotis Liadellis and Robert Gulyas were at the heart of the Azovmash rally, and both hit three-pointers as their side drew to within four points at the end of the third quarter, 59-55.
Azovmash continued to battle bravely into the fourth quarter, despite losing center Sergey Lishcuk with a fifth foul, and cut Girona's lead to one point on four separate occasions.
But the effort of playing against both a great Girona side and 5,000 vocal home fans proved too great, and it was McDonald's final three of the game which gave Girona the breathing room they needed, 71-67.
Marc Gasol followed up with two free throws and a lay-up to open up a 75-67 lead with just two minutes to play, and there was no way back for Azovmash.
"We played without fear. We won by one point other day so we came in thinking we had nothing to lose," said Bajramovic.
"We came close but Girona has 11 players who can really play and they did what they had to."
Gasol and Gregor Fucka finished with 12 points apiece for Girona, who outrebounded Azovmash 34-23, including 13-4 at the offensive end.
El-Amin top scored for Azovmash with 16 points while Bajramovic and Liadellis each contributed 15.