Unics Kazan did what everybody expected them to do at home in the final four of the FEL, defeat Russian rivals Ural Great Perm and advance to Saturday’s final.
Kazan have been without question the top team so far in the competition, but their status as all-out favourites came into question in the Russian cup last week. They were beaten by Ural Great, who went on to defeat CSKA Moscow in the final and win the competition.
In Kazan it was a different story as the home team dominated their opponents for 40 minutes. Saulius Stombergas led a red-hot Kazan offense and his 16 first quarter points was simply too hot for the Ural Great defense to handle.
While Kazan could not miss, Ural Great seemed listless and tired, much to the constant chagrin of coach Sergey Belov. Belov chose not to start his 2 top scorers Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (who is carrying a foot injury) and Ksistof Lavrinovic. But their eventual entrance into the game did not change matters.
“Our team lacked the spirit that we showed 2 weeks ago in the Russian Cup,” said Belov after the game, "There was no desire to win.”
His words could not have been more accurate, and at times, the Ural Great players looked as if they were taking part in a training scrimmage. They began the game shooting the ball badly, while Stombergas hit his first 3 three-pointers to take Kazan to a 22:5 lead after 7 minutes.
It is not often that a game is decided in the first few minutes, but it appeared to be the case in this semi-final. Ural Great managed to keep up with Kazan for much of the game, the only problem was that they were trailing by double digits…
The only ray of hope came in the third quarter when a Sandis Buskevics three-pointer capped a 7:0 run and saw the lead cut to 11 points, 55:44. But once again it was Saulius Stombergas who stepped up offensively and his 2 baskets saw Kazan regain the ascendancy.
The only set back for Kazan was the absence of Lamarr Greer who is unavailable with injury, but despite this, coach Stanislav Eremine was more than happy with his team’s performance.
“We prepared well for this game. Martin Muursepp and Saulius Stombergas really stepped up for us. I was not that pleased with the quality of the game, but I am pleased with the performance,” he said.
Stombergas finished with a game-high 29 points on 11/16 shooting, 6/8 from three-point land. As a whole, Kazan made 57% of their 2 point shots and 58% of their threes (11/19).
Ksistof Lavrinovic put up 26 points for Ural Great but could do nothing to influence the final decision.