BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Jason Dourisseau lead GasTerra Flames Groningen with 23 points in the deciding Game 7|
GasTerra Flames Groningen claimed at the weekend their fourth title in the 68-year history of the Dutch Eredivisie League to complete the domestic double for the first time in the history of the club.
Groningen who lifted the Dutch Cup earlier in the season, had last celebrated an Eredivisie Championship in the 2009/10 season.
In a thrilling play-off finals series, Groningen prevailed 4-3 over fellow EuroChallenge side Shoeters Den Bosch, a club that was aiming for a record 16th league trophy.
Dutch international Arvin Slagter, who joined Groningen from last year's champions ZZ Leiden in the summer, was named the MVP of the play-offs.
With both finalists delivering strong performances at home throughout the title series it quickly became apparent that Groningen, who had clinched first place in the regular season and held the home-court advantage in the play-offs, had an ace up their sleeves.
Den Bosch prevailed 69-63 in Game 6 to tie the finals at 3-3 but the series moved back to Groningen for the deciding seventh encounter.
Playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Martiniplaza Arena, the two opponents traded baskets for most of the first half and GasTerra Flames only managed to gain a slim 36-30 lead before the half-time buzzer.
That all changed after the interval, when Groningen returned to the court determined to put the title beyond the reach of their guests.
The hosts outscored Den Bosch 24-11 in the third quarter to build an unassailable 19-point lead going into the final frame and, despite some late heroics by the visitors, held on rather comfortably for a 76-68 win that sealed their championship triumph.
Jason Dourisseau, with a game-high 23 points, led four Groningen players in double digits, Cashmere Wright added 15 points and MVP Slagter finished with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists.
"I said prior to the play-offs that when the boys won the cup, they had left space for one more trophy," commented Groningen head coach Ivica Skelin.
"So I'm very proud of my team, I might not be the best coach but we have made it, we've written history and it's a beautiful feeling.
"I gave my medal to a trio of fans that have followed us in every single game this year.
"It's my job, I get paid for it, but these fans do not get paid and they deserve it more than I do."
|Belgium head coach Eddy Casteels will additionally be responsible for ZZ Leiden next season|
LEIDEN BRING CASTEELS TO THE EREDIVISIE
Groningen had previously advanced past ZZ Leiden, 3-2, in an equally dramatic semi-final series.
The former champions have reacted swiftly to their elimination from the title series by securing the services of Belgium national team head coach Eddy Casteels for the upcoming season.
The 54-year-old tactician, who has coached most top Belgian clubs, including Oostende, Spirou Charleroi and Port of Antwerp Giants, has won the Ethias League title on three occasions.
Casteels took charge of Belgium in 2006, when the national team was struggling, and steered the 'Lions' on their long journey of returning to a EuroBasket tournament, in Lithuania in 2011.
Belgium and Casteels went a step further at last September's EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia as they advanced to the second round and claimed a ninth-place finish, their best placement in 36 years.
Once he assumes the reins of Leiden however, the seasoned coach will add a new experience to his resume, as he will work for a club outside his country for the first time in his career.