|11 February 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Pete Mickeal led Barcelona to the Copa del Rey final on Sunday with a 14-point MVP performance|
Barcelona Regal conquered their 23rd Spanish Copa del Rey title on Sunday and now have in their trophy case the same amount of silverware in this competition as their arch-rivals, Real Madrid.
"We know that we are not to everyone's liking," said Barcelona head coach, Xavi Pascual, after the big final in Vitoria.
"But we are happy with our track record, this is the tenth title in four years (since his tenure started) and that's very difficult considering the quality that exists in basketball."
Barcelona themselves of course have enormous quality, both as a team and individually.
So much so in fact that they scored more points in this Copa del Rey than any other team since the turn of the century, averaging 92 a game, but perhaps paradoxically that was not the determining factor in Sunday's final.
The Catalans defeated Valencia Basket 85-69 to conquer the title in an encounter that, as several media noted in their post-game analysis, was effectively resolved during the third quarter and left the 15,000-strong crowd in Buesa Arena with plenty of time to stare at the various celebrities in attendance or bet on who the MVP was going to be.
They did not have to make use of all the quality at their disposal, with captain Juan Carlos Navarro missing all eight of his shots and failing to write his name on the scoresheet, an historical anomaly.
Sarunas Jasikevicius, the Lithuanian legend who had won his last Copa del Rey 10 years ago, again with Barcelona, did not even play.
Yet when Barcelona, who were trailing by one point after the first quarter, pulled away midway through the third period to build a 13-point lead, it was as if everyone knew they were not going to give it up.
Not only because Valencia's big guys, Vitor Faverani and Serhiy Lishchuk, had gotten into foul trouble by that point, adding to coach Velimir Perasovic's woes.
It was mainly due to the fact Barcelona had impressed so much in their quarter-final clash against Real Madrid, the Liga Endesa leaders, and in their semi-final clash against Copa del Rey hosts Caja Laboral, second in the league standings, that once they took a double-digit lead on Sunday, even the most loyal Valencia fan did not see this turning around.
Pete Mickeal, who was named the MVP of the tournament, led all Barcelona scorers with 14 points while Marcelinho Huertas and Croatian international Ante Tomic had 13 apiece.
Serbian international Stefan Markovic and Justin Doellman had 14 points each for Valencia in defeat.
To reach the final, Barcelona came from behind and used a big fourth quarter to top the Caja Laboral, 80-69, on Saturday.
Navarro destroyed the tournament hosts' defence with 20 points on four-for-seven shooting from three-point range, prompting Argentinian international Andres Nocioni to say after the game that there is only so much you can do to limit Navarro, as he is "the Spanish Ginobili."
In the quarter-final, Barcelona had defeated Real Madrid 111-108 in an epic 'clásico' that went into double overtime and turned the eyes of the entire country toward basketball.
Thursday's clasico kick-started an historical Copa del Rey, with a cumulative attendance of 100,205 spectators (14,315 per game), up from the previous record of 97,276 fans in the 2010 edition, in Bilbao.
The front page of most big national dailies on Monday was dominated by a photo of Navarro lifting the coveted trophy, with Spanish king Juan Carlos applauding in the background.
It was the shooting guard's sixth Copa del Rey title, and both him and his club are certain they are many more in store in the near future.