Barons LMT Riga are the 2008 EuroCup champion after beating Dexia Mons-Hainaut 63-62 in a thrilling finals in Limassol, Cyprus on Sunday night.
The champs bring the first European title ever to Latvia as an independent country, and Riga will have a good reason to celebrate tonight. The last Latvian team to win a title was ASK Riga back in 1960.
"We played like a team for 40 minutes like coach asked us," said Barons' Lithuanian guard Giedrius Gustas,
|After a big game on Friday Ben Ebong was held in check by Barons.|
"We had ups and downs but we stayed like a team. We won by one point but this is enough to celebrate the win," he concluded after hitting 17 points on 75% from the field, including a couple of clutch shots that helped win the game.
Dexia's Travis Conlon went to the line to shoot two free throws with his team down 63-60 and only two seconds on the clock. He made the first and then came a dilemma if he should make the second or try to miss and go for the offensive rebound.
"I made a big mistake when I told Conlon not to miss the second free throw thinking we can get a quick foul and then change the score," said Coach Chris Finch after the game.
The club from Belgium failed to foul as Barons ran the clock to start their celebrations.
The Latvians took over the game right from the start, stopping the big guys of Dexia and getting their guards in foul trouble. Barons came back in a big third quarter, and even took the lead in the deciding one, but Barons had the nerves to turn the game in their favor and win by a point.
Armands Skele was the main executer of Barons the entire night. The athletic Latvian guard showed his classic all-around skills and registered 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists, behind a big hard-nose and fighting spirit.
Dexia saw 13 points from each of their guards - Conlon and Nate Reinking with the first adding five rebounds and four assists, and the last having six rebounds. Andrew Sullivan was behind the comeback in the third quarter and finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
Barons held an early 15-5 lead taking advantage of a terrible start from the field by Dexia in the first minutes of the game. Michal Hlebowicki's three-pointer made it a 12 point game, but big plays by Dexia in the closing seconds allowed them to finish the first quarter down 23-15.
J.P. Batista came off the bench to cover for a weak start by Alexander, and set the highest margin on 14, 29-15, with seven minuets to play in the first half. Reinking and Mike Lenzly drained from long range to change the pace of the game, and Jim Cantamessa sent the teams to the half time break with seven points difference, 35-28.
By the end of the first half Dexia's big guys were scoreless, while Conlon and Reinking had three fouls each, but they were still in the game.
Barons didn't allow any breathing room and a little two minutes into the third Hlebowicki finished a fast break to make it a 12 point game again, 44-32.
Sullivan took control of the game for his team before it was too late, and was the main factor behind a 16-4 run that tied the game in the next six minutes. Gustas and Skele were in place to make sure Barons will hold a 62-58 lead at the end of the third, but Dexia didn't let go yet.
Lenzly, with a three-pointer, tied the score again and Ben Ebong added a close range bucket to give Dexia their first lead of the game behind an 8-2 run early in the fourth.
Dexia raised to a four point lead, but then Gustas and Alexander came back with 4:30 left on the clock and everything changed.
After a slow night on offense Alexander stepped up, and his jumper put Barons on top again, 59-58. He added a point from the line and a great effort on defense, before Gustas sank a jumper of his own to give his team a 62-58 lead with 1:21 to go.
Skele hit just one from the line with 55 seconds on the clock and Sullivan made it just a three point game, and after Skele missed a three-pointer Dexia had their last chance.
To cap a fantastic performance Gustas fouled Conlon to prevent a three-point shot attempt, and fouled out of the game with two seconds on the clock.
Conlon was too accurate this time, allowing Barons to run the closing seconds and start the celebrations.