|31 March 2014|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
ALBA Berlin and Tonybet Prienai successfully defended their respecitve domestic cup titles in Germany and Lithuania on Sunday and did so by winning in far more impressive fashion than the first time around.
|ALBA Berlin defended their German cup title (photo: Beko BBL/fotoduda.de)|
Berlin Is Cup Town In Germany
Whereas in 2013 ALBA had conquered the Beko BBL Cup by defeating ratiopharm Ulm at home, at the weekend they had to travel to last year's runners-up for the 2014 Top Four tournament and do it all again on the home court of a team that was dreaming of extracting revenge.
The team from the capital, coached by Sasa Obradovic, took on reigning league champions Brose Baskets Bamberg in the semi-finals.
Following a too-close for comfort first half which found the two teams tied at 36, ALBA started pulling away in the third and clinched an ultimately comfortable 83-67 win, behind 15 points from each of David Logan and Croatian international Leon Radosevic, while F.Y.R. of Macedonia international Vojdan Stojanovski chipped in with 13 points.
In the final, ALBA took on old foes Ulm, who stormed past Bayern Munich 90-72 in the semi-final, on the back of a 19-point, seven-rebound, six-assist display by Cameron Long.
Propelled by the home crowd in the sold-out 6,000-strong arena, Ulm started off better in the big game and grabbed a 26-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.
ALBA however tightened the screws on defence and turned the tables around to reach the half-time break leading 45-41.
The Berliners increased the gap to double digits after the interval and had enough left to sustain the host team's ferocious assault in the fourth and celebrate an 86-80 triumph.
Clifford Hammonds paved the way for ALBA with 19 points and five assists, Radosevic had 15 points and seven rebounds and Reggie Redding finished with 13 points, seven boards and seven assists.
German international Per Günther, Ulm's captain, came up with a game-high 25 points in a losing effort.
This was Berlin's eighth BBL Cup title since the introduction of the Top Four tournament in 1993, with Bamberg and Köln 99ers claiming three trophies each.
"I am very happy with the performance and the cup victory," Obradovic said after the final.
"To win it here in Ulm is much harder than in Berlin.
"I think we are deserved winners after the two games and I am very proud of my players.
"We saw two days of great basketball during the Cup weekend."
"But last year, there was after the Cup victory a certain pressure to achieve more, and then we were knocked out in the [league] play-off quarter-finals.
"Therefore, we can celebrate a little today, but then we have to quickly refocus on everyday life in the Beko BBL.
In the game for third place, Bamberg defeated Bayern 79-73 behind 25 points from Rakim Sanders and 14 points from D'Or Fischer.
Prienai, The Giant Killers
|Former Lithuania national team player Mindaugas Lukauskis led Prienai to back-to-back Lithuanian Cup victories on the weekend|
Prienai meanwhile were considered by many last year as something of a caretaker for the Lithuanian Cup, as they had won the competition in a season that neither of the two powerhouses, Zalgiris Kaunas or Lietuvos Rytas, took part.
At the weekend however, Preinai silenced critics in the Baltic country and tasted an LKF Cup triumph much sweeter than that of 2013.
Coached by Virginijus Seskus and led by a glaring 19-point display from veteran Mindaugas Lukauskis, Preinai upset hot favourites Zalgiris 84-76 in their Saturday semi-final clash.
Arturas Valeika added 14 points while Laimonas Kisielius and Gintaras Kadžiulis finished with 13 each for the winners; for Zalgiris, captain Paulius Jankunas had 15 points and fellow Lithuanian international Martynas Pocius finished with 14 points.
"Maybe for some our victory was unexpected, but we had been preparing for this game and any victory against such teams as Zalgiris means a lot to us," coach Seskus said after his team's win.
If these words were spoken by way of warning ahead of the final, the message did not reach Lietuvos Rytas.
The powerhouse from the capital Vilnius suffered the same fate as Zalgiris in Sunday's big game, as Prienai prevailed in a dramatic battle of endurance and won 94-93 in overtime, to celebrate a glorious repeat of their LKF Cup success.
Lukauskis scored 15 points, including the game-winning free throw at the end of the game, and also dished out five assists and was named the MVP of the final.
"We played two Euroleague teams and defeated both of them to win this title," Kisielius, who finished with a team-high 24 points said.
"In reality, we did not expect to do this, but we really wanted to, and it showed.
"We just supported each other as a team, we were always together."
In addition to the stellar displays by Lukauskis and Kisielius, Valeika added 17 points and seven rebounds for the winners.
Meanwhile Juan Palacios collected a game-high 28 points and Lithuanian international Renaldas Seibutis picked up 25 points for Rytas in defeat.
"Yesterday I believed in the win, but today I was afraid that perhaps the players were tired," said coach Seskus.
"The players however competed with all their heart and mind and we could have even won it during regulation.
"But the way we reached victory, in overtime, gives us even greater joy."