By Yarone Arbel
The 2008 edition of the EuroCup Final Four presented five players who stood out in the two game days of the competition and were named to the All-Tournament team.
The trophy lifters from Riga - Barons LMT sent two representatives, including the MVP while the finalist from Belgium - Dexia Mons-Hainaut are represented by two as well, while hosts Proteas EKA AEL finalize the group of five.
Travis Conlon, Dexia Mons-Hainaut - 12 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.5 spg
Next time you google "Stepping up" you should have in the top results something about Travis Conlon's performance in this Final Four. Coming here he didn't finish even one EuroCup game this season scoring in double-digit, while here he did it both nights. His numbers increased also in many other statistical categories, including steals, a field he specializes in considering he was the top stealer in this EuroCup season coming here. But there was more than just numbers to his game. Conlon showed great leadership, was never afraid to take the responsibility and the big shots. Down by three, in the closing seconds of the finals, he was about to take a three pointer to send the game to overtime. Barons chose not to allow that, and send him to the line. They probably knew what they were doing.
Duane Woodward, Proteas EKA AEL - 18 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.5 spg
Proteas staff, players and fans won't tattoo this Final Four in their memories as a good experience but Duane Woodward could look back and knows he did everything in his powers to make it happen, which is something some of his team-mates can't say. In the semi's coach Barton kept him on court for the full 40 minutes, and he earned 16 points from his guard but most important, even when nothing was working for AEL that night, Woodward kept trying and trying and trying, eventually to finish with the best performance of his team that night. In the consolation game for the third place once again he was very active, and despite it not being his best shooting day of the season, he never let go and made sure Proteas would stay on top and finish third.
Ben Ebong, Dexia Mons-Hainaut - 16 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 tpg, 62.5% FG
If you dare to think Ebong is here only because his 19 points performance in the first half of the semi-finals, you're dead wrong. Just like he stepped up in the quarter-finals series and set his first double-double of the season in the game that sent Mons to the Final Four, he did in the semi's when he set his season high in points, including his first two hits from long range, after not making a single attempt the whole season. His big first half against Proteas in the semi's helped Dexia take an easy double-digit lead early in the game and surf to the finals. There, he finished the first half with no points, as Dexia were seven points down. He woke up in time for the second half, when he scored eight points and Dexia got back in the game. He fouled out with two minutes to play in the finals, and maybe if he was still on court in the deciding quarter, things would have been different.
Demetrius Alexander, Barons LMT Riga - 15 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2 spg, 1.5 bpg, 50% FG
The double-double king of the EuroCup didn't produce another one in the Final Four, but those who followed closely saw just how big his contribution was. In the semi's he had a weak first half and Barons were down by 18. In the second half we showed the real Demetrius, as Barons took over the game and the US forward dominated play after play on his way to 25 points in 25 minutes. In the finals he had a tough time again. Actually it was the first game in this EuroCup season in which Alexander didn't score in double-digits. Nevertheless when coach sent him back on court with 4:42 on the clock, just when Dexia took their biggest lead of the game, he produced. He nailed a big jumper and later added a point from the line to cap a 6-0 run which gave Barons the lead for the last time. In addition he had three more rebounds, a block and the things you don't see in the box score - changing shots on defense, positioning his team-mates where to stand like a true point guard and slowing down the pace to be in control. He came back from the bench to win it, and that's exactly what he did.
MVP - Giedrius Gustas, Barons LMT Riga - 13.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 58.3% 2FG, 60% 3FG
The fact the Lithuanian guard of Barons won also the MVP of the Final Four means a lot. Gustas is no stranger to titles. He won EuroBasket 2003 with the Lithuanian team and the Euroleague title in 1999 with Zalgiris Kaunas, but in both cases he was playing a minor role in those teams. This title is more special because as opposed to the previous ones he had a key act in capturing the gold. Gustas has a mark of a "loser" back home in Lithuania as a result of a case that you can read about in his page on this site, but in Limassol he proved to everybody he can be a winner too. He tied his second best scoring performance in the finals with 17 points in 75% from the field. He came back to the game with 5:38 to play in the last quarter just after Dexia took their biggest lead of the night, and scored a big jumper with 81 seconds to play to make it a four point game in favor of his team. To put the cherry on top, he made the most important play of Barons on defense. His foul on Conlon with two seconds on the clock was his fifth and he fouled out, but that foul was a very smart one as it prevented Dexia from taking a three-point shot that could have tied the game.