BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
| Toni Bizaca was crucial to Södertälje's title defence, being named MVP of the finals |
Södertälje Kings completed at the weekend the successful defence of their Swedish Basketligan title, conquering the league trophy for a second consecutive year and the third time in their history.
The Kings, guided by newly-appointed Sweden head coach Vedran Bosnic, defeated Norrköping Dolphins 92-80 in the title-deciding Game 7 of the finals on Saturday night, in front of a capacity crowd at their home arena, Täljehallen.
The hosts chiselled out a 48-40 lead by the half-time interval and, uncharacteristically for this hotly-contested series, they stayed in the driver's seat and held on to their advantage until the final buzzer without excessive drama.
John Roberson paved the way to the win worth a championship for Södertälje with a game-high 32 points, also adding six assists and five rebounds while Martin Pahlmblad chipped in with 17 points.
Toni Bizaca, the Croatian power forward who also had an excellent EuroChallenge campaign with the Kings this year, was named MVP of the Basketligan finals.
Interestingly, and despite having the home-court advantage in the play-offs, Saturday's win was only the second for Södertälje at home, in a title series that unfolded in unpredictable fashion.
Södertälje edged out the Dolphins 85-83 in Game 1 at home behind a 21-point, 7-rebound display by Bizaca, but lost Game 2 at the Täljehallen, 72-65.
The Kings however re-gained the home-court advantage by winning Game 3 in Södertälje, 82-69, on the back of 27 points from the sharp-shooting Roberson.
Norrköping tied the series at 2-2 with a comfortable 88-69 victory at home in the fourth game and then took a giant step towards the crown by upsetting the Kings once again in Södertälje and claiming a 79-75 triumph in Game 5.
With their backs to the wall, the Kings travelled to Norrköping for the decisive Game 6 in dire need of a big performance on the road to take the series back to Södertälje.
Bizaca provided just that, as he erupted for a game-high 31 points and added seven rebounds to propel his team to a 77-61 win which tied the series at 3-3 and enabled Södertälje to win the championship in front of their home crowd on Saturday.
The Kings competed in the EuroChallenge for a second time in a row this year and finished third in Group C of the regular season, missing out on a spot in the Last 16 to BK Ventspils and eventual quarter-finalists Tartu University Rock.