BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Make it 8! Montepaschi clinched the title in Italy|
Montepaschi Siena brought the longest post-season in Europe to an end on Wednesday by defeating Acea Virtus Roma 79-63 on the road and clinching their seventh consecutive and eighth overall Italian Serie A league title.
Serie A was the only major domestic league to feature best-of-seven series in all rounds of the play-offs this season and Siena, despite the fact they prevailed 4-1 over Roma in the Finals, still played a total of 19 post-season games to conquer the title.
A player that is poised to shine bright for the new-look Italy at the upcoming EuroBasket was the big protagonist of the Italian play-offs and walked away with the Finals MVP award in addition to his champion's medal after the Wednesday encounter.
Siena point guard Daniel Hackett, who had averaged 8.2 points, 2.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds during the Regular Season, surged to 14.2 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in the post-season, while simultaneously improving his field goal percentages from both two-point and three-point range.
Hackett only needed to score seven points on Wednesday, as Siena assumed control of Game 5 right from tip-off and took their first double-digit lead already in the second quarter.
Roma fought hard to tie the scores at 33 right before the half-time buzzer, but Siena were so dominant that they kept their hosts to just two points during the first five minutes of the second half and pulled away with ease, never looking back.
Bobby Brown led all Siena scorers in Game 5 with 18 points while David Moss added 11 and a game-high nine boards.
Meanwhile another Italian international who shared the spotlight with Hackett during the play-offs, Regular Season MVP Luigi Datome, had 15 points and seven rebounds for Roma in a losing effort.
The consensus among players, coaching staff, fans and media on Wednesday night was that this has been the most steep summit the Tuscany club has climbed since its Italian dynasty commenced in 2007.
|Finals MVP: Daniel Hackett|
"We have capped off a year that was extraordinary for us, but so difficult for this city [Siena]," a jubilant Hackett said.
"It has been the season of troubles, of injuries, of difficulties, but in the end we made it against all odds."
Siena parted ways with long-time head coach Simone Pianigiani, also the coach of the Italian national team, in the summer and waved farewell to several players who were instrumental in establishing the club at the top over the past years.
New boss Luca Banchi had to plan on a recession-era budget and few expected Siena would mount a successful title defence when they went off to a shaky start and finished the Regular Season in fifth place in the standings, having registered 12 losses.
Banchi's team however did not need the home-court advantage to advance to the Finals.
They defeated fourth-placed EA7 Emporio Armani 90-80 in a thrilling Game 7 in Milano to win their quarter-final series, and then repeated the feat in the Semi-Finals, by stunning Regular Season winners Varese 82-69 in the seventh game of the series.