|Sergio Llull hit the winning shot for Real Madrid with less than a second remaining|
Sergio Llull drilled a jumper with just one tenth of a second left in the Spanish Copa del Rey final on Sunday to gift Real Madrid a 77-76 triumph over defending cup champions FC Barcelona.
Real, who have now extended their unbeaten run on the domestic front this season to a record 22 games, not only deprived their eternal rivals from the coveted trophy but also jumped ahead on the all-time Copa del Rey winners' table with 24 titles, to Barcelona's 23.
On Sunday in Malaga, the classic clash between the two Spanish titans was too close for comfort for the entire 40 minutes, with the two arch-rivals trading baskets until the nail-biting finale provided another memorable moment in European basketball history.
Real appeared to be making a breakthrough when they became the only side to claim a significant lead, 71-64, as Nikola Mirotic sunk a triple with 2:27 remaining to play from the same corner that Llull would later convert the game-winner.
But in the final minute, Brad Oleson hit a three-pointer and then Marcelinho Huertas made one of his trademark floaters to reduce the gap to 75-73.
But Rodriguez immediately redeemed himself in the best possible way as he faked at the top of the key, drew three Barcelona players on him and passed in the right corner to an unmarked Llull, who made the game-winning shot with his feet on the three-point arc.
|Nikola Mirotic was the MVP in Real run to Copa del Rey glory|
"I cannot really describe how it feels [to make this shot], you can only get this feeling once you've made it; I had lost quite a few before, so it's a sensation of absolute happiness," a beaming Llull explained afterwards.
"It was a great contest against a grand rival like Barcelona and the coin could have flipped on either side, but in the end it showed heads and we won."
Llull finished with nine points and six assists, Rudy Fernandez went 3-of-4 from three-point range and collected a game-high 19 points and added three rebounds and three assists in a stellar performance for the winners but Mirotic stole the limelight on Sunday.
The power forward picked up a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds to reach an efficiency index rating of 32 and was named MVP of the tournament.
Real defeated Gran Canaria in the quarter-final on Thursday and CAI Zaragoza in the semi-finals on Saturday, with Mirotic averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and an efficiency rating of 22.3 over the three games.
"This team is incredible, the truth is that anyone of us could have been the MVP, in the end it fell upon me and I am happy about it," Mirotic said afterwards.
"The game was extremely tight, it went our way but it could have very well gone the other way."
The two Spanish giants have met on 18 occasions in the cup competition but curiously only seven of these encounters were in the title game.
Real had previously won only two of these finals against Barcelona, in 1989 following a monstrous display by the legendary Drazen Petrovic, and in 2012 at Barcelona's home court, during FIBA Europe Coaching Certificiate (FECC) instructor Pablo Laso's first year at the helm of the Madrid club.
Furthermore, Laso has now become the first coach in Spanish history to win the Copa del Rey on two occasions after conquering the trophy as a player.
"I was dreaming of becoming a player when I was 12, I dreamt of playing for the national team, of winning titles, and then I wanted to coach a big team," Laso said after the game.
"But I've never dreamt of something like this.
"Basketball is my life and when you win something like this your joy is even bigger, but I enjoy every day that I get to do my job.
"We might be a bit weird, but it's our way of life."