|28 March 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Alex Mumbru's 13 points came in handy for Bilbao Basket in their return leg against Kiev|
Bilbao is known in the sporting world for a famed and unique in its philosophy club, Athletic; one of only three clubs to have never been relegated from the top flight of Spanish football.
Uxue Bilbao Basket, a club that was founded in 2000 and only played for the first time in the ACB in 2004, has made spectacularly enormously strides these past years in creating basketball fans in the Basque city.
They made the Spanish Liga Endesa play-off finals in 2011, they've played in the Turkish Airlines Euroleageue and reached the Eurocup semi-finals on two occasions.
Nothing consecrates a club though internationally like playing in a European final, and nothing replicates the sweet expectation that the prospect of winning a European title raises in the city in the lead up to that final.
As of Wednesday night, Uxue Bilbao are a consecrated club, and from now on they will share the spotlight with Athletic in the collective conscience of European sport fans.
Over 10,000 crazed fans watched on Wednesday as Bilbao swept aside Budivelnik Kiev 75-53 in a packed Miribilla arena to win their Eurocup semi-final tie with a 32-point differential on average.
The Ukrainian team arrived in Bilbao with the almost impossible mission to overcome a 10-point deficit from the first leg, and without the services of injured Latvian international guard Rihard Kuksiks and veteran Lithuanian forward Dainius Salenga.
Bilbao also had problems of their own, with Serbian international big man Milovan Rakovic watching from the sidelines.
But midway through the second quarter, none of this mattered anymore and both teams knew it.
Bilbao were not going to miss out on this final and they stormed out of the gates to take a 37-21 lead at half-time, simply cruising the rest of the way while coach Fotis Katsikaris could afford sharing around playing time among all players on the squad.
|Will have a "home game" in the Eurocup final in Belgium: Axel Hervelle|
Former Spain international Alex Mumbru and Lamont Hamilton paved the way for the hosts with 13 points each, with the Catalan forward also adding four rebounds.
Croatian guard Fran Pilepic, Mamadou Samb and Greek international Kostas Vasileiadis, Bilbao's top scorer in both the Eurocup and the Spanish league, had 10 points each.
Belgian international Axel Hervelle, who led his team in rebounding throughout their Eurocup campaign, contributed eight points and six boards on Wednesday.
For Kiev, who were led by Leo Lyons' 20 points, Ukrainian international Artur Drozdov had 12 points and seven rebounds in defeat.
Bilbao will face Russian side Lokomotiv Kuban, who sealed their passage on Tuesday, in a single-game final in the Belgian city of Charleroi on 13 April.
"I am very happy to have the chance to play this great final for our team in my home country, I hope that Belgian fans will support us," said Hervelle.
"It all started from defence (on Wednesday) and that helped us to get a historical win for the club and the city.
"Our fan support was unbelievable; the 'Miribilla effect' always helps us and this achievement is shared with them."