|FIBA Europe Acting President Cyriel Coomans presents Reggio Emilia captain Michele Antonutti with the EuroChallenge trophy|
TURNING POINT: The opening minutes of the big final witnessed four lead changes and saw the scores tied on five occasions until Reggio Emilia went ahead 16-14 on an Andrea Cinciarini lay-up 2:02 from the end of the first quarter. The Italians built a seven-point lead, 23-16, in the remainder of the first period, and never looked back.
GAME HERO: James White spearheaded the charge of the relentless Reggio Emilia troops on Sunday as he delivered a monumental defensive display and still had enough ideas and energy on the offensive floor to collect 17 points on 5-of-8 from the floor, also adding four rebounds and two assists.
STATS DON'T LIE: Reggio Emilia scored 16 points on the fast break and also punished almost every Triumph turnover as they scored 12 points off of them. The Russian side only added two points to their tally after a Reggio turnover.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia stormed past Triumph Lyubertsy in the EuroChallenge 2014 final in Bologna to register a 79-65 triumph and conquer their first trophy in the history of the club, outside the Italian second division.
The 14-point differential constitutes the second biggest winning margin in a EuroChallenge final since 2006, when Joventut Badalona of Rudy Fernandez enjoyed an 88-63 rout of Khimki Moscow Region to lift the title.
Reggio's win on Sunday came in such emphatic fashion that a sizeable portion of the Reggio Emilia faithful in the PalaDozza arena stands had already erupted in jubilation midway through the third quarter.
The opening minutes of the title game, however, were the only time during the entire Final Four weekend in Bologna that the hosts showed any signs of weakness.
Once Andrea Cinciarini however pulled the hosts ahead 16-14, their defensive intensity, the will to hassle for every loose ball and contest every opponent's shot appeared to switch up a gear.
Triumph had gone eight minutes without scoring a basket from the floor and misfired on nine consecutive attempts by the time Milovan Rakovic posted up and reduced to 25-18, with 8:12 remaining in the second quarter.
But as Troy Bell poured seven points in quick succession and Ariel Filloy hit a long jumper 2:48 from the half-time buzzer to cap off the 9-0 run, Reggio Emilia's lead ballooned to 44-24, the biggest gap during the first half.
As Reggio went into the interval leading 48-32, it was evident to anyone at the PalaDozza that it would take a comeback effort of colossal proportions for Triumph to snatch this trophy away from Italy.
It was a high order and one that Triumph could never realistically accomplish since Rakovic and Cory Higgins, who combined for 41 points on Sunday, continued to pose the only credible threats to the Reggio Emilia basket until that point.
|Andrea Cinciarini cutting off the net|
The hosts continued to defend with their intensity levels intact and look to make the most of every half-chance to run in the open court, until Cinciarini drove to the basket, made the lay-up and drew the foul, midway through the third frame.
The EuroChallenge Final Four MVP converted the three-point play and restored Reggio's 21-point lead, 62-41, with 5:06 remaining to the end of the period.
Reggio finally could take a breath, exchange bursts of relentless energy for glances at the clock and long, patient possessions.
The hosts slowing down allowed Triumph to reduce momentarily to 12 points, 73-61, on an Artem Vikhrov jumper 2:42 from the final buzzer, but by then the party in Bologna and in Reggio Emilia was already well under way.
White finished with 17 points, Kaukenas added 15 and Bell picked up 14 points as the three players on the very balanced Reggio offence to score in double digits.
Higgins picked up a game-high 21 points and Rakovic had 20 points for Triumph in defeat.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia Head Coach Massimiliano Menetti
"We won our last six games in the EuroChallenge and in every single game we improved our attitude and our performance. I want to thank every player, all my coaching staff, but especially the management of the club for the trust that they put in us, believing in this cup since last summer. Step by step we made every fan believe we could do something important, and today we are celebrating the greatest day in our history. It is unbelievable, three years ago we were fighting in the last game of the season to avoid relegation to the third division and right now we are talking about winning the EuroChallenge, next to Rimantas Kaukenas."
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia Guard Rimantas Kaukenas
"I can honestly say that after what I've gone through with these guys in the four months I am here, I feel like I could go to war for them and they would go to war for me. That's what really counts. I feel proud of every coach, every player, every staff member of our team and thank them for what we've accomplished. It is a small team that is really hungry to grow. This trophy is as important as anything I have won in my career."
Triumph Lyubertsy head coach Vasiliy Karasev
"The game proved too difficult for us, both physically and mentally, especially for our younger players. For some youngsters it was really hard to handle the pressure from the spectators and the opponents, who are a more experienced, more mature team. Our field goal percentage leaves much to be desired. Due to their rotation, we were forced to make substitutions early on and the players who came on were not ready to play in this game, from the beginning to the end. The players started looking for easy points, we rushed things and tried to play one-on-one so we made a lot of turnovers and allowed them to score on the fast break."