BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Galatasaray were crowned Turkish Champions on Saturday|
Galatasaray Medical Park signed off a dream domestic season on Saturday night with a 76-58 victory over Banvit at home to win their first Turkish BEKO Ligi title in 23 years, and fifth overall in their history.
The Istanbul powerhouse lost only two games in the last six months of the competition, both to Banvit, once on 30 December 2012 and once in the Finals.
They topped the Regular Season standings with a 27-3 record, went on to eliminate Tofas 2-0 in the play-offs quarter-finals and then swept EuroChallenge finalists Pinar Karsiyaka 3-0 to reach the tile series.
Galatasaray defeated Banvit by 17 and 14 points, respectively, in the first two games of the Finals at home and then claimed a dramatic 72-71 win on the road in Game 3.
In Game 4, also at Banvit, the hosts responded by edging out the Istanbul side 86-85 in a similarly nerve-wrecking encounter to take the best-of-seven series into a fifth game.
Once the Finals were back at Abdi İpekçi Arena though, Galatasaray recovered the dominant form they had shown in the first two games at home and established a 14-point lead, 37-23, already at half-time.
Ergin Ataman's players maintained their defensive intensity intact in the third quarter and built an unassailable 25-point advantage going into the final frame.
The hosts finally let their guard down somewhat in the final minutes, but Banvit could never hope to turn the tables around in an encounter away from home in which they had scored a meagre 37 points after the first three quarters.
Turkish international Cenk Akyol led the way for Gala with a game-high 22 points, Senegalese center Boniface Ndong finished with 16 points and five rebounds and Puerto-Rican point guard Carlos Arroyo added 15 points and eight assists.
Galatasaray's title success is an enormous personal triumph for coach Ataman, who had led Besiktas Milangaz to a fantastic treble last season, winning the Turkish league, Cup and EuroChallenge trophies, before joining Istanbul's red-and-yellow club in the summer.
"I am enormously happy and very grateful to the Galatasaray fans who supported us from the beginning until the end," the Turkish tactician said.
"This is going to be a new beginning of sporting success for the basketball section of the club.
"We have earned the right to play in the Euroleague and aim to be champions of that competition too."