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Tartu End Five-Year Wait In Estonia

25.05.2015
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

22. Tanel Kurbas (Tartu Rock)
Tanel Kurbas delivered outstanding performances in the Finals, earning MVP honours

Tartu University Rock, who competed in this season's EuroChallenge reaching the Last 16, returned to the Estonian Alexela KML throne at the weekend for the first time since 2010.

They prevailed 4-1 over arch-rivals BC Kalev/Cramo in the best-of-seven finals series led by some inspirational displays from Estonian international Tanel Kurbas, who earned play-off MVP honours.

This is the seventh domestic championship title for Tartu since Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union and their 23rd overall in history.

Kalev/Cramo struck immediately out of the gates and picked up a 77-63 win on the road in Game 1, on the back of 17 points by a former Tartu player, Rain Veideman.

Tartu were suddenly left wrestling with the ghosts of last year's title series, when they were swept 4-0 by Kalev/Cramo despite arriving in the play-off finals with the home-court advantage.

They managed however to swiftly erase any lingering fears in Game 2, also at home.

The hosts overcame a rusty start, which saw them trail by eight points early on, to claim a 68-61 win behind a defiant showing by Kurbas, who finished with 21 points on four-for-seven from three-point range.

Despite the fact the series was now simply tied at 1-1 and they had to travel to Tallinn for the next two games, Tartu had finally broken the spell.

They collected a 77-66 win in Game 3 as Kurbas registered a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds and veteran big man Janar Talts chipped in with 10 points and nine boards.

Not content with that, Tartu claimed another big success on the road in Game 4 prevailing 77-61 over Kalev/Cramo, as Kurbas once again led the charge with 21 points of 8-for-12 shooting from the floor.

Tartu now had the chance to close out the series in front of their home crowd and did not disappoint their fans, as they cruised to an 86-67 triumph in the fifth game, behind a 21-point, eight-assist showing by Tanel Sokk and a 16-point display by Timo Eichfuss.

"This is a day for celebrations for Tartu, everybody has been waiting for it for several years," Tartu head coach Gert Kullamäe said immediately after the end of the triumphant Game 5.

"We played like a team, our desire to prove ourselves on the court was bigger than any setback.

"Once we reached the finals, we got better in each game and we also withstood the challenge on a physical level."

Kullamäe, who started off as an assistant at the club after terminating his playing carreer, took the reins as head coach in 2012.

He had previously steered Tartu to the Estonian Cup in 2013 and 2014 but this is obviously his first championship win.

Tartu are a mainstay of the EuroChallenge as they have participated in six of the last seven editions of the competition and reached the quarter-final play-offs last season.

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