|Michal Sokolowski had an excellent series against Anwil to lead Rosa Radom into the Polish league finals|
After participating in the inaugural edition of the FIBA Europe Cup and lifting their first Polish Cup trophy earlier this year, Rosa Radom celebrated on Thursday night another important milestone in club history.
Radom prevailed 75-61 over Anwil Wloclawek on the road to clinch a 3-1 win in their Polish Tauron Liga semi-final series and earn the right, for the first time ever, to compete for the domestic league champion title.
While Radom had claimed second place in the regular season standings and held the home-court advantage in the play-offs over third-placed Anwil, the Wloclawek side were still considered the favourite going into the semi-finals.
Those who doubted that Radom, a club founded as recently as 2003, could stand between Anwil and the Polish league title series felt vindicated after game one of the semi-finals, as Wloclawek stifled their hosts and snatched a 64-58 win on Radom's home court.
Radom tied the series at 1-1 with a big 82-65 win at home in game two, behind 20 points from Michal Sokolowski and 19 points from Robert Witka, but Anwil still felt very good about their chances, as they simply needed to win two consecutive games at home to close out the best-of-five series.
The Radom side however came out guns blazing in game three, grabbed a 15-point lead early on and held on to celebrate a 71-56 win on the back of a stellar 26-point, eight-rebound display by Sokolowski which erased the excellent effort of Czech international David Jelinek on the Anwil side.
Radom had now taken a 2-1 lead in the semi-finals and re-gained the home-court advantage, but on Thursday night they saw the chance to close out the series without the need to go back home for a fifth game, and they took it.
|Young Polish international Damian Jeszke chipped in with 16 points in Radom's game four win|
Just as it had happened in the third clash, Radom forced Anwil to go through a slow start in game four and took an eight-point lead at half-time, 39-31.
Anwil reduced the gap to 47-43 midway through the third but Radom used an 8-0 run at the start of the final frame to stretch their lead to 15 points and cruised from then on rather comfortably to their 75-61 victory and the series win.
Once again Sokolowski paved the way for Rosa with 17 points, also adding four rebounds, while young forward Damian Jeszke added 16 points on a superb four-of-seven shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Radom will now face Stelmet Zielona Gora in the league finals, as the regular season winners swept Energa Slupsk 3-0 in their semi-final series.
Zielona Gora are the overwhelming favourites and also hold home-court advantage, but the ecstatic Rosa Radom fans have been pointing out since Thursday night that their team had previous experience of upsetting the Polish powerhouse, as they pulled off that feat in the Cup final.
|Maris Gulbis and BK Ventspils went the full distance against Riga, but lost in decisive game five 75-73 |
VENTSPILS, JUVENTUS TO PLAY FOR THIRD
Two other FIBA Europe Cup participants meanwhile, Latvian side BK Ventspils and Lithuanian side Juventus Utena, fell in the play-off semi-finals of their respective domestic league and will have to compete for third place.
Juventus lost 3-0 to powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas in the Lithuanian LKL semi-finals and will now take on the losing side of the other semi-final match-up - Neptunas are currently leading Lietuvos Rytas 2-1 in the second semi-final.
While for Juventus this must be regarded as a success considering they had finished fifth in the Lithuanian LKL regular season, Ventspils were victims of a rather cruel fate.
Ventspils took second place in the Latvian Aldaris LBL regular season but quickly lost the home-court advantage in the semi-finals with VEF Riga as the team from the capital won the first two games of their best-of-five series.
With their backs to the wall, Ventspils won the third game 86-80 at home and then tied the series at 2-2 with a huge 79-71 triumph at Riga, behind a 17-point, nine-assist showing by Willie Deane.
On Thursday night, the series came back to Ventspils for game five and the hosts looked poised to complete a spectacular comeback and punch their ticket to the title series, but Riga thought otherwise.
In a tight game which saw the lead change hands on multiple occasions, Riga took a slim four-point lead going into the final minute but Maris Gulbis knocked down a three-pointer with five seconds remaining to bring Ventspils within one point, 74-73.
The hosts quickly fouled Joshua Harrellson who split his free throws but Deane's attempt to tie the scores with two seconds left on the clock fell short, so Riga celebrated a 75-73 win and their passage to the LBL finals.
Riga will go up against Valmiera/ORDO in the title series, while Ventspils will face Liepāja/Triobet in the series for third place.