|'The coaches put together a great game plan and we had to execute, we had no pressure at all,' Jermaine Flowers says of Joensuun Kataja's victory over Aliaga Petkim |
By Jeff Taylor
Joensuun Kataja didn't go into their EuroChallenge Qualifying Round tie with Aliaga Petkim as the favourites, but by the end of the second leg on Tuesday night there was little doubt about which side was better.
The Finnish side won both games in spirited fashion.
They ended up with a 159-134 aggregate victory to clinch a spot in the EuroChallenge Regular Season.
Right in the thick of the battle was Jermaine Flowers, a 1.96m guard/forward who delivered the knockout punch offensively in the second leg.
Flowers hit nine of his 15 shots from the floor, including three of five from behind the arc, as Joensuun Kataja claimed a 77-64 triumph.
"We're very happy," he said shortly after the team's return from Turkey.
"It was a great win for us and the whole organization."
While Aliaga Petkim play in a higher profile domestic league in Turkey, the Beko Basketbol Ligi, Joensuun Kataja never doubted they would be the winners in the tie and that was even during the first leg when Aliaga led by 17 points midway through the third quarter.
"We just wanted to go out and play our game," Flowers said. "The coaches put together for us a great game plan and we had to execute.
"We didn't have any pressure at all."
Flowers didn't say that their opponents had taken his club lightly, but he did stress that every game is won and lost on the court and not by reputation alone.
Aliaga Petkim had designs on doing something special in the EuroChallenge, just as last season's winners from Turkey, Besiktas, did.
Joensuun Kataja didn't go along with the script, though.
"You can never look past any game," Flowers said.
"You have to play the game. Everyone plays to win."
The mindset of Joensuun Kataja was straightforward.
"We wanted to attack them on defense, and force them into uncomfortable situations and create turnovers," Flowers said.
When asked if his squad had a good scouting report or had been able to watch a lot of video on Aliaga Petkim, Flowers answered: "Every league has a style, and in the Turkish league, there is a lot of one-on-one and post play.
"We double-teamed their big man down low and they didn't handle it too well."
In the first leg, Aliaga Petkim turned the ball over a whopping 30 times while in the second clash, they had 18 turnovers.
All that matters now is that Flowers and his teammates have secured European basketball for their fans.
They will take on Krasnye Krylia, Keravnos Strovolou and CSU Asesoft Ploiesti in Group B.
"We don't know much about them," Flowers said.
"We've been travelling all day and just got back, but I'm sure our coach is going to come up with a game plan that gives us a chance.
"There is definitely a lot of excitement. Everyone wanted it."
For Flowers, the experience of the EuroChallenge is something that he is truly looking forward to.
He was a real hotshot in college, playing at Winona State University in NCAA Division 2.
Flowers launched his professional career in Sweden, then played in France for two and a half seasons before going back to Sweden.
A native of Chicago where the weather can be brutally cold, he is accustomed to the extreme temperatures that he's encountered before in Scandinavia and will again this year.
On the court, Flowers says his Finnish club has done very well to advance, but stresses it can play better.
"There is always room for improvement," he said.
"The longer we are together, the better chemistry we are going to have."