BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Edo Muric and KRKA Novo Mesto celebrated a fourth consecutive domestic title on the weekend|
Former Slovenian international Matjaz Smodis has signed off his illustrious career by leading Krka Novo Mesto to their fourth consecutive Slovenian Liga Telemach title and collecting the Finals MVP award.
Krka, which competed in the EuroChallenge this season, defeated Union Olimpija 71-61 on the road in Ljubljana on Monday night, in Game 4 of the best-of-five play-off final series, to be crowned champions.
Smodis, who returned to the Novo Mesto club in December after a 13-year absence, scored 21 points on Monday, while Jakov Vladovic and Edo Muric finished with nine points and seven points, respectively, and a team-high six rebounds each.
For Olimpija, Slovenian U20 international Klemen Prepelic and Finnish international Sasu Salin had 14 points-apiece in a losing effort.
Krka had won the first two games in the series but Olimpija prevented them from celebrating a sweep and momentarily injected suspense into the series when they took Game 3 in Novo Mesto last Friday, 73-68.
"We should have won the title in Novo Mesto but it does not matter anymore, because we have now reached our ultimate goal and became champions," said Krka coach Gasper Potocnik.
"Congratulations to my players, who are most deserving of this success," added Potocnik.
"We fought from the first to the last minute and in the end we deserved to win a fourth consecutive title," commented Smodis on Monday.
"A big thanks to the people of the club and the fans that made it possible to end a long career in this nice way."
When the 33-year-old power forward re-joined Krka in the winter he had announced that he would retire at the end of this season and continue at the club where his career had started from another capacity.
Slovenia head coach Bozidar Maljkovic however included Smodiš in his early 34-strong preliminary squad for EuroBasket 2013 back in February, so perhaps a last bow at the biggest event the country has ever hosted might still be the final act in the career of the three-time Euroleague winner.
Smodis's first spell at Krka lasted from 1994 to 2000 and he was instrumental in the club's first of now six Slovenian league titles.
Krka's biggest success on the international stage came in 2011, when they defeated Lokomotiv Kuban in the Final Four title game in Belgium to conquer the EuroChallenge.