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Lugano Returns To Swiss Summit

26 May 2014
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
Ricky Gibson (Lugano Tigers)
Ricky Gibson was influential in the Lugano Tigers returning to the top of Swiss basketball

Lugano Tigers bounced back at the weekend from a painful loss in last year's Swiss LNA league play-offs to reclaim the domestic championship title - their eighth since the turn of the century.

Coach Andrea Petitpierre and his men outlasted Fribourg 4-3 in the finals series to lift the trophy.

Lugano had previously conquered the Swiss championship in consecutive years before being defeated by Geneva in the league play-off finals in 2013.

The Tigers won the title-deciding seventh game 92-88 at home as Travis Watson, who was voted MVP of the finals, erupted for 24 points on an amazing 11-of-11 from the floor and added eight rebounds.

"This is incredible, all of our hard work this year has led to precisely this moment," Watson said.

"Don't ask me about tomorrow or about next year because I am so happy right now I just want to savour the moment and celebrate."

Fellow big man Mohamed Abukar had 22 points and Ricky Gibson chipped in with 18 points and six assists for the winners.

Lugano captain Derek Stockalper was named best Swiss player of the play-offs, while his opponent in the finals but team-mate on the national team, Jonathan Kazadi, was voted as the best player under 23 years of age.

Lugano had topped the regular season standings with a 23-5 record while Fribourg had finished in second place at 20-8 and both teams comfortably dispatched their semi-final opponents Geneva and Neuchatel, respectively, with 3-1 wins.

The title series therefore was always going to be a tight affair but Fribourg appeared to be making a giant leap just as the curtain was still being raised, when they edged out the Tigers 85-84 in Game 1 in Lugano.

The Tigers however reclaimed the home-court advantage by giving Fribourg a taste of their medicine in Game 4 as they prevailed 87-77 on the road behind a 22-point display from veteran Matthew Schneidermann.

The two finalists then proceeded to clinch one win each, in their next respective home games, until Lugano settled the title race once and for all with another home win in the Game 7 decider.

In doing so, the Tigers have not only overcome the disappointment of last year's finals against Geneva but also a drastic reduction in their budget ahead of the start of the season.

"During the course of the season, the team has grown enormously as a collective and has managed to overcome every hurdle, demonstrating that money is not everything," commented Lugano president Alessandro Cedraschi.

 

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