The Final LIVE On FIBA Europe TV

01.05.2011

EuroChallenge

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7. Jeremiah Massey (Lokomotiv Kuban)
Spartak simply had no answer to Jeremiah Massey in the semi-final. The American forward finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists, to give Lokomotiv a shot at the title

The climax of a thrilling, unpredictable EuroChallenge is on Sunday evening when KRKA Novo Mesto take on Lokomotiv Kuban in the beautiful Belgian coastal city of Ostend, Belgium.

While the latter began 2010-11 with the goal of cutting down the nets at the Final Four, KRKA were not as ambitious.

"Honestly speaking, not really," said KRKA president Brane Kastelec to Basketball World News on Saturday.

"That is valid not only for the EuroChallenge competition, but also the NLB League (Adriatic League) competition.

"Our internal objective was to be, as far as the NLB was concerned, somewhere in the middle of the league but in the end, we were in the Final Four and then got a third place.

"As far as the EuroChallenge, we had no special objective. We wanted to go to the second round, to be one of the best 16 teams, and we had some great games.

"All developed really fantastically at the end and now we have a chance to be at the top."

If anything, getting this far has been easier for KRKA than for Lokomotiv, a team that spent a lot of money to be competitive in the Russian PBL and Europe and is looking to get a nice return.

They had to overcome some complicated scenarios just to reach the Final Four.

The EuroChallenge began for Lokomotiv with a loss to Antwerp Giants.

There was also a four-game stretch from December 21 to February 1 in which the Russian outfit lost three of four.

Lokomotiv needed to beat BK Prostejov in their final Last 16 clash on May 1 to reach the Quarter-Finals and then had to go to overtime to defeat BCM Gravelines Dunkerque, something they accomplished when Lionel Chalmers hit a lay-up with seven seconds to go in the contest.

Jeremiah Massey, Chalmers and Alando Tucker are three of the players who suit up for the Krasnodar outfit, which is led by Lithuania's national team coach Kestutis Kemzura.

All three have had big seasons, and very impressive performances in Friday's first Semi-Final, a 74-64 triumph over their Russian rivals Spartak Saint-Petersburg.

Massey had 21 points, Chalmers 20 and Tucker 18.

KRKA will no doubt try to close off the lane to the Chalmers penetration that led to so many baskets for Lokomotiv against Spartak.

What happens if KRKA focus too much on that trio?

"Hopefully other players will step up," Kemzura said.

"I didn't think that Mike Wilkinson played his best game (on Friday).

"There are Alexey Surovtsev and Goran Jeretin and some guys who didn't even play. The team spirit, team effort will be important - stay with the game-plan, play hard."

One thing is for sure when it comes to teams that reach Finals. The credit has to be shared.

One person, though, deserves as much praise as anyone at KRKA and that is the colorful, larger-than-life coach Aleksandar Dzikic, one who might be mistaken for one of the English television chefs ‘The Hairy Bikers'.

What was it he said after KRKA's 79-65 win over Oostende on Friday?

"We're not a good looking team, starting with myself!" he said.

Asked about the personality of his coach, Kastelec said: "I like him very much due to his optimism and his sense of humor.

"That helps a lot.

"But he knows how to really motivate his players and there is one simple rule that he follows and the team follows.

"There are always five players on the court, however, only one idea.

"There is only one solution and our team plays as a team, not as a bunch of individuals.

"We don't have very famous names in our team, but if you look at the means spent on the court, you see that properly divided among the players."

One player did stand out on Friday and that was Goran Ikonic, a 31-year-old scoring machine who poured in 24 of his game-high 26 points in the second half against Oostende.

But Ikonic and his teammates always say that on any given night, any player for KRKA can beat the opponent.

"I think that is the main reason for our success this season, the spirit of teamwork and the motivation provided by our head coach," Kastelic said.

"Also, it's important to know there is another expert, assistant coach Aleksander Sekulic. I know his scouting helped us win that game on Friday."

Yes, at KRKA, everyone shares the credit.


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