|15 April 2012|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Croatian point guard Zoran Planinic had an outstanding weekend for champions Khimki and was voted the Eurocup Finals MVP (Photo: Euroleague Basketball/ Mikhail Serbin)|
BC Khimki gave their fans in Moscow the ultimate thrill this weekend by hosting the Eurocup Finals and winning the title.
The side led by Lithuanian coach Rimas Kurtinaitis edged their All-Russia Semi-Final against Spartak Saint Petersburg 77-73 on Saturday and 24 hours later defeated 2010 champions Valencia Basket, 77-68.
Kurtinaitis, a great as a player for his national team, was the coach of Lietuvos Rytas when the Lithuanian side defeated khimki in the final to win the 2009 Eurocup title.
He has now compensated his current employers for that loss in the best possible way and added a second Eurocup title to his silverware collection.
By winning the trophy, Khimki became the first side to punch its ticket for a place in next season's Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
Croatia national team guard Zoran Planinic led the way for Khimki with 19 points and four assists and was named MVP of the Finals.
The veteran playmaker was nine of 11 from the floor and had two steals while Thomas Kelati, a former Valencia player and a member of Poland's national team, came up with four.
"With this win and this trophy, we take a lot of pressure off our backs," Planinic said.
"Going into the Eurocup, we knew we had to win to qualify for the Euroleague next year, because it's a lot easier to beat some Eurocup teams than to beat CSKA in the Russian League."
Another Croatian, Kresimir Loncar, poured in 14 points and Chris Quinn added 11.
KURTINAITIS SALUTES KHIMKI
Kurtinaitis was proud of Planinic and all the Khimki players.
"I am happy for Zoran as the MVP," he said, "but usually we do not have guys ranked in the top five or ten, just like I have never been among the top coaches in Europe.
|Lithuanian coach Rimas Kurtinaitis led Khimki to a title he had deprived them of in 2009 and added a second Eurocup trophy to his collection (Photo: Euroleague Basketball / Alex Caparros)|
"But here, we have won together, everybody like a fist, and I am happy because of this."
Nik Caner-Medley capped a terrific season with 23 points and 11 rebounds for Valencia but failed to snatch the trophy he craved.
The American forward knotted the contest at 66-66 late in the fourth quarter and the Spanish outfit looked as if they might have enough to overcame the home side.
But with 2:00 to go, Russia international Vitaly Fridzon buried a three-ball and Quinn followed with four straight free-throws.
Valencia weren't dead yet with 36 seconds left on the clock as Caner-Medley sank two free-throws and then France international Florent Pietrus intercepted the inbounds pass and tried to drive in for a lay-up.
His fellow Frenchman Mickael Gelabale got good defensive position, raised his arms and went straight up before blocking Pietrus.
The defensive play triggered a fast break for Khimki that Matt Nielsen, the MVP of Valencia's 2010 win, finished with a dunk.
RYTAS BEAT SPARTAK TO THIRD
Lietuvos Rytas, beaten by Valencia on Saturday, 80-70, clinched third place with a 71-62 victory over Spartak in Sunday's first game.
Jonas Valanciunas, held to just four points, no rebounds and no blocks in Saturday's defeat to Valencia, bounced back with 10 points, 12 boards and three swats for Lietuvos Rytas against Spartak.
Another Lithuanian national team player, Renaldas Seibutis, had 21 points to lead the Vilnius club past Spartak.