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Maiden Finnish League Title For Kataja

20.05.2015
EUROCHALLENGE
9. Teemu Rannikko (Kataja Basket)
Teemu Rannikko led Kataja Basket to the Finnish championship

Kataja Basket, a club which has competed in the EuroChallenge three seasons in a row, claimed on Tuesday night the Finnish Korisliiga crown for the first time in their history. 

The team from Joensuu defeated Bisons Loimaa 88-85 at home to win the play-off finals series 3-2 and finally lift a trophy that had been persistently eluding them up to now, as this was their sixth trip to the finals since 2006.

Game 5 featured a nail-biting finale worthy of the wonderfully dramatic series that the two contenders offered to the Finnish public this year.

Veteran guard Teemu Rannikko put Kataja up front 86-83 with a jumper 24 seconds from the final buzzer but Bisons's Ian Hummer replied quickly to reduce to 86-85 and the visitors fouled Rannikko with nine seconds left on the clock.

Rannikko sunk both free throws to make it 88-85 and Bisons called a time-out to draw up a play to tie the scores and force overtime.

When action resumed, Hummer came off the screens and put up a three-point attempt with five seconds remaining, but missed.

Bisons none the less kept the ball alive and kicked out to Anthony Hilliard who fired off another triple right at the buzzer, but his shot also did not drop in and Kataja erupted in celebration.

Ken Horton paced Kataja with 22 points and six rebounds, Tommi Huolila had 20 points and seven boards while the legendary Rannikko, for whom this was also the first domestic championship since he spent the biggest part of his career abroad, collected a double-double of 21 points and 12 assists.

For Bisons, Hilliard finished with a game-high 32 points and Martin Zeno added 17 points in losing efforts.

"I would really like to thank the people at this club who have done a terrific job for a long time," said Kataja head coach Pekka Salminen, who can now boast of having both the Swedish and Finnish titles in his résumé.

"Our approach was to give our top players freedom on the court, the players gradually grew and this is the final result, it's quite fantastic."

Kataja had overcome the hurdle of Kauhajoen Karhu in order to reach the title series while Bisons were handed arguably the toughest task of the play-offs as after finishing fourth in the regular season they knocked out favourites KTP-Basket in the semi-finals.

"Despite the loss I'm incredibly proud for my players," said Bisons head coach Greg Gibson.

"This has been an incredible season, we played 82 games, but we have a great group of people."

 

5. Maurice Acker (Bakken Bears)
Maurice Acker came up just short with the Bakken Bears versus Horsens IC

HORSENS END BEARS' DANISH STREAK

Horsens IC have put an end to the Bakken Bears' dominance in the Danish Basket-Ligaen by prevailing 4-2 in the play-off finals and collecting their first championship trophy since 2006.

Bakken had claimed first place in the regular season and therefore had the home-court advantage in the series but Horsens dealt the decisive blow right away as the picked up a 74-65 win on the road in Game 1.

Horsens did not need to pull off another similar feat on the road as they protected superbly their home court by winning Game 2 and Game 4 to gain a 3-2 lead in the series before returning home for the sixth game.

With their backs to the wall, Bakken got off to a good start and the first half proved too close for comfort as Horsens only edged ahead 37-36 before the half-time buzzer.

The hosts however earned some breathing space and extended the gap to nine points in the third quarter, while they allowed only eight points to the now nervous Bears in the fourth and celebrated a 72-55 win and the title conquest.

Skyler Bowlin paved the way for Horsens with 16 points, Vedran Borovcanin registered a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile Brian Fitzpatrick, who had nine points and five boards for Horsens in Game 6, was named MVP of the Finals.

For Bakken, who had won the last four league titles in Denmark, Jo Harris with 13 points and Maurice Acker, with 10, were the only players to score in double digits in Game 6.

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