Unlike the Conference Final in Izmir 4 weeks ago, there were no last second heroics from Tuborg this evening as SAOS JDA Dijon advanced to the Pan-European Final following an end-of-game gamble from the home club which didn’t pay off.
With 7 seconds left on the clock and the score at 74-74, Tuborg’s Baris Özcan fouled fresh-off-the bench Bruno Hamm, putting him to the line. Hamm stayed cool and sank both foul shots, while down the other end Alex Jensen’s last second 3-pointer fell short, handing the victory to the Conference West Champions and dealing a bitter blow to the locals.
“We were very unlucky in these last few seconds”, commented Tuborg coach Mete Babaoglu after the game, “ I told my players to foul as we didn’t want number 7 (Barrett) getting the ball and then our players committing a foul on him or he scores. We needed only 2 points to play on (into overtime) but our player passed out for the outside shot and we missed the three.”
In contrast to the earlier game this semi-final started slowly for both teams, Tuborg in particular having trouble getting the ball through the hoop in the early moments. Rowan Barrett kept Dijon ahead, hitting repeatedly from behind the arc, but receiving limited support from inside. Tuborg really struggled for the first 5 minutes but a volley of enormous dunks coupled with some excellent rebounding from American center Glen Whisby gave them the spark they needed as they started to pull back into the game, finishing the quarter down two – 14:16.
Barrett’s Dijon teammates started to help out in the 2nd: Dimitri Lauwers hit 2 threes and Paccelis Morlende started pushing to the hoop. At the other end Tuborg’s Hakan Köseoglü lit up for a couple of fast-breaks and was backed up by Alex Jensen shooting 80%.
Neither side was able to pull away though and the lead changed hands several times before the end of the half. Nevertheless, a huge last-second 3-pointer off the backboard from Köseoglu gave the locals something to smile about going into the locker room. Half-time score 43:41.
Dijon came out after the break with much more aggressive play and looked set to take the game. Despite the score remaining close in the 3rd quarter the French side appeared more cool and controlled. The back-court Morlende-Barratt-Bernard team was very effective while Vakhtang Natsvlishvili and Jerome Monnet looked impressive inside.
When Köseoglu took a break at the end of the 3rd period/beginning of the 4th Dijon looked like they were ready to wrap it up, pulling away to an 11-point 56:67 lead over their hosts. Tuborg then played smart, taking advantage of Natsvlishvili’s foul trouble and pushing the ball inside to Asim Pars and Glen Whisby. It was Whisby’s strong inside play and solid free-throw shooting that brought the Turkish side back into contention – he scored 10 of his total 24 points in the last 5 minutes to pull the score back to 69:71.
In a nail-biting finish, both teams tried to save seconds on the clock putting their opponents to the line at either end. Köseoglu went coast-to-coast to tie the game at 74-74 with 7 seconds left. Özcan’s foul and Hamm’s nerves of steel then decided the game.
Hot-handed Rowan Barratt top-scored with 22 for Dijon, shooting 4/7 for 2 and 4/6 for 3 and 100% from the free-throw line as well as dishing 2 assists and getting 2 steals Jerome Monnet backed him up, scoring 14 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and again 2 steals.
For the home team Glen Whisby stood out again, shooting 8/11 from both the field and the free-throw line, pulling down 14 boards and blocking two shots. Hakan Köseoglu felt disappointed with his performance: 16 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals – but not quite enough for the win.