BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Cedevita captain Marino Bazdaric lifting the championship trophy (photo: KK Cedevita)|
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Cedevita Zagreb had the feast of a lifetime on Tuesday night, at the expense of cross-town rivals and defending Croatian champions, Cibona.
Cedevita completed a 3-0 sweep of Cibona in the Croatian A-1 League play-off finals to lift the first championship trophy in the history of the club and also avenge in the best possible way a recent painful defeat to their arch-rivals.
At the end of April, young star Dario Saric had collected a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds and Cibona stunned Cedevita 72-59 in the title game of the ABA Adriatic League Final Four in Belgrade to be crowned champions.
June back home in Zagreb however was all about Cedevita, who were already departing as favourites since they had secured the home-court advantage in the play-offs.
Jasmin Repesa's men prevailed 84-76 in Game 1 at home behind 17 points from Nolan Smith and a 15-point, 10-rebound display by Miro Bilan, who erased a monstrous double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds by Saric.
Cedevita then dealt the master blow in Game 2 on the road, as they gave up only 10 points to Cibona in the final frame and came from behind to pick up a crucial 69-61 victory.
Smith once again paved the way for Repesa's troops with a game-high 19 points and Tomislav Zubcic chipped in with 11 points off the bench.
On Tuesday night, Cedevita's biggest challenge was to not allow the historical significance of Game 3 and the chance to dethrone the defending champions to weigh heavily on their shoulders.
Cedevita delivered in style, as they led their guests from start to finish to celebrate an 87-76 win and the championship conquest in front of their home fans.
Goran Suton led the charge for Cedevita with a game-high 23 points, while Luka Babic added 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.
|"It's also good that we wrapped it up in only three games, so that now we can happily watch the football World Cup" - Cedevita and Croatia head coach Jasmin Repesa|
"This is not a time for words, it's time to celebrate," a beaming Repesa said afterwards.
"Congratulations to everyone at the club and the fans, who came in large numbers to cheer for us.
"I think we absolutely deserved this title.
"First of all I'm happy for the management of the club, because I know how much they wanted this trophy.
"We have also dramatically raised the quality of the players individually and this makes me even more proud than the actual title.
"I think that most of our guys are better players today than what they were at the start of the season.
"It's also good that we wrapped it up in only three games, so that now we can happily watch the football World Cup," Repesa, who is also the coach of the Croatian national team, added jokingly.