PaulBall: Straight From The Herz

03.05.2010

 Paul NilsenPaul Nilsen is a freelance basketball journalist writing for various web-sites and publications across Europe. You can contact Paul by emailing him at badaball@hotmail.co.uk. 

The Gottingen supporters  proudly waved violet and white scarves emblazoned with the words ‘It's A Matter Of The Heart' and as far as EuroChallenge Final Four 2010 is concerned there couldn't have been a more apt description.

In a quite wonderful weekend of basketball, Lokhalle played host to a deliciously intense climax of a long and gruelling EuroChallenge season which ended with history being made.

Gottingen lifted their first European trophy and believe me, the celebrations afterwards really were something to behold.

Right in the in the heart of Germany and indeed the heart of Europe, the mantra of the Violets really did rise to the fore as they showed the heart required to finish top of the pile.

When they found themselves down by 20 points and on the ropes in their semi-final against Roanne they didn't panic. The supporters stayed with their team and showed their true colours throughout. Together, both on and off court, they climbed the mountain and showed just the kind of heart, the words on their scarves and flags spelled out.

Passion and love for basketball oozed from every last pore and in one of the most wonderfully distinctive venues anywhere - a former railway factory, they got their bid to win the Trophy back on track.

In fact, once they got on a roll they were like a runaway train in the second half against Roanne down the stretch. Next up, they de-railed a tough Krasnye Kylia in the Final and its very much a case of next stop EuroCup on their wonderful European journey.

They partied hard into the night and for a city with basketball right at its heart, the efforts of Coach Patrick and his players will now go down on the very first page of sporting achievements in Gottingen.

Without too many other sports to focus on, the fans live and breathe the sport. It is a basketball city that welcomed EuroChallenge with real warmth, handed it more energy than you could ever expect to see on either side of the hardwood before waving it goodbye as hangovers from the celebrations began to kick in.

That's not to say the other three teams did not play their part in some terrific moments. They absolutely did.

Even the third and fourth placed game (which you would expect no player truly wants to play in) had intensity, heart and passion. It was written in the eyes of Michael Taylor-Hicks, the stand out player for Scavolin Spar Pesaro.

He so badly wanted to win both games across the weekend. He was so visibly upset and emotional by the losses - even the one against Roanne in the consolation game.

For the Italians it was a tournament that they had hoped would prove to be a welcome distraction from their relegation fight back home but understandably, nothing could blank out the thoughts of Dusan Sakota, engaged in a far more important and personal fight of his own.

It was the main topic of conversation for the basketball family that descended on Gottingen - each and everybody you spoke to was wishing the player well and rightly so.

Scavolini Spar Pesaro came so agonisingly close by losing a tight game against Krasnye Krylia who relied on their defensive prowess before the Italians then came up short against Roanne. They too played with heart and you had to respect Coach Dalmonte and his team for almost reaching the Final despite their injury and relegation problems.

Similarly what about Roanne and Coach Choulet? After so long at the club, it would have been nice to for him to have been able to lift the EuroChallenge Trophy on Sunday night.

Perhaps summing up just how exciting and riveting each game was - a similarly depleted Roanne also could and perhaps should have been in the Final. Cruelly denied top scorer Ralph Mims who sat out with a broken finger, they had a twenty point lead but just couldn't see it out against the high tempo hosts who simply had the superior stamina down the stretch.

Flying high in the French League, Roanne shrugged off their nightmare against Gottingen and added third place to their current third position in the French League - thanks mainly to the impressive Dylan Page.

Also impressive of course were Krasnye Krylia.

Boy do they like to dig and grind it out with their defence! They really don't go away and stick to you like glue. With the tournaments leading scorer Luis Flores they posed a potent danger and with veteran Ralph Biggs stepping up big time - they almost made it all the way.

A terrific effort by the Red Wings and they were worthy runners-up.

Perhaps the only question mark hanging over a quite marvellous and memorable weekend of action was the MVP award being handed to Taylor Rochestie. Not that the Californian was not deserving - his scintillating performance in the semi-final alone put him right at the front of the queue.

It was team-mate Chris McNaughton that threw up the question mark. A sensational performance in the Final by the man plucked from the third tier of Spanish Basketball last summer by Coach Patrick.

While one should ever underestimate the standard of any league in Spain, the facts are laid bare for all to see. He stepped up from the old LEB silver and put in one of the best performances you could ever expect to see in a showpiece Final and is now a EuroChallenge winner and flying high in the German BBL.

His 7 of 8 inside and flawless 6 of 6 from the line was the best line in the Final itself and it was nice to see a German player leading a German club, in Germany to such a fantastic success.

All in all, as a neutral watching EuroChallenge 2010 you couldn't have written the script any better could you?

As I left Lokhalle to the sounds of singing and drums banging in the distance, there was no need to check the words written on the various regalia of the local revellers.

‘It's a matter of the heart'

Trust me, after a weekend in Gottingen at EuroChallenge Final Four I have got that particular message loud and clear.


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