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May 21, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
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THE EUROLEAGUE HISTORY ARCHIVE
TEL AVIV 1994: ERASING A BAD MEMORY
JOVENTUT 59-57 OLYMPIAKOS
In 1994, two years after losing the final game against Partizan in Istanbul on a buzzer-beater, the "Golden Generation" of Joventut Badalona managed to take the title. The previous summer, "Penya" had signed the very coach of the same Partizan that took the 1992 title from its hands, Zeljko Obradovic. But during group play, Joventut didn't have a very good season, finishing third at 9-5, but in the elimination rounds was able to eliminate Real Madrid in a 2-0 quarterfinals sweep for a ticket to the Final Four in Tel Aviv. In Israel, three more teams would be waiting: Barcelona which had risen from fourth to take group leader Efes Pilsen, a newcomer to that stage, in the quarters; Olympiakos, who downed Virtus Bologna 2-1; and another newcomer in the elite, Panathinauikos of Greece, who defeated defending champs Limoges in quarters by 2-1 as well. In the first semifinal, a Catalan duel, Joventut destroyed Barcelona's zone defense thanks to a rain of threes by Jordi Villacampa and Tomas Jofresa. In the Greek semifinal, 32 points by Russian legend Aleksandar Volkov were not enough for Panathinaikos because Olympiakos had a big variet of scorers, including Zarko Paspalj (22), Roy Tarpley (21), Giorgos Sigalas (15) and Panagiotis Fassoulas (13). In the big final, a crucial triple by Corny Thompson, and great defense on the last possession for Olympiakos play gave Joventut its first title. At last, two years later than it expected, "Penya" could call itself champion.
Joventut 59-57 Olympiakos
3RD PLACE GAME
Panathinaikos 100-83 FC Barcelona
Joventut 79-65 FC Barcelona
Olympiakos 77-72 Panathinaikos
INTERVIEW: JORDI VILLACAMPA, JOVENTUT
Jordi Villacampa was one of the best European shooting guards of the 1980's and 1990's. He played 158 games for the Spanish national team, winning the bronze medal in the 1991 European Championships, and he holds the record for most points in a single game with 48 against Venezuela in the 1990 World Championships. Villacampa spent his entire career with Joventut Badalona, where he played for 17 years, winning two Spanish Leagues, one Spanish Cup, two Korac Cups and the most important one: the European crown in 1994, defeating Olympiakos 59-57 in the final. Villacampa was the captain of the team and that was the last of five European finals that Joventut has played in its 73-year history. Villacampa played in all them and now, appropriately enough, he is the club's president.
What do you remember the most about that 1994 Final Four?
"First of all, that we were not the favorites of the tournament. We didn't show very good basketball that season in the Spanish League and we had to play Barcelona, who was doing really well, in the semifinal. Olympiakos was a great team, too. And there were always the feelings about what happened two years before."
Yes, you had lost the final against Partizan Belgrade in 1992, with a last-second shot from Sasha Djordjevic. Did you think really about it when you played the big game again?
"We'd learned from that experience because it had really hurt us a lot. It was very important the next time, because we faced our second Final Four with another mentality. We felt less pressured. It was the second time and we weren't favorites: we had everything to win and nothing to lose."
That was the best achievement of your career?
"The most important, of course. There is nothing higher that a team could aim to win. And I will say it again: We lost it two years before, when we had it in our hands. The first time we won the Spanish League, in 1991, was something great, too."
The semifinal game against Barcelona was a very special one, for sure.
"Of course. There is always the rivalry with Barcelona. And it was very difficult, too. We were nine points down in the first half and trailed by five (31-36) at halftime. But everything changed dramatically after the break. We didn't make any three-pointers in the first half, but Tomas Jofresa, our second playmaker, scored two in just half a minute. Barcelona changed its defense to a zone and we started to make three-pointers, going for a 17-2 run that gave us the lead (51-42) for good. Tomas Jofresa scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half and I took 18 of my 20. We were leading 76-53 and at the end we won 79-65. Only Epi (23 points) played well for Barça. It was unbelievable."
How did you prepare the final game with Zeljko Obradovic?
"We wanted not to feel too much pressure. And we succeeded. The morning before the semifinal game we went to the zoo. I remember Corny Thompson riding a golf cart. He said he was tired. And the morning before the final we did the same, this time changing to a bird park. Regarding the systems, Zeljko Obradovic wanted to play two low-scoring games, assuming that we weren't the best team, so we could have more chances."
And the final was really a low-scoring game, 59-57, also.
"Olympiakos was better than us, theoretically. Our goal was to stay even until the final minutes, so we may have some chances to win. We were not especially anxious. But I didn't start the game well. When I went to the bench after 11 minutes, we hadn't been able to make a single shot. Sigalas was playing his best defense on me. When I came back to the floor we were trailing 16-24, but things started to change. I scored my first two baskets and Mike Smith made a three-pointer that put the score at 39-39 at halftime. Ferran Martinez was our key man in the first half with 14 points. I remember that in the second half we took the lead for a while (41-39), but we went afterwards scoreless for more than four minutes, trailing 52-57. But then something unbelievable happened: The Greek players were unable to make a single point in the last 6 minutes, 44 seconds. We grabbed some key offensive rebounds and Corny Thompson, our center, scored a three with 18 seconds remaining that was due to make history. Paspalj missed a free throw (back then it was "one-plus-one") and we thought that the game was over. But something happened with the clock and Olympiakos had three more chances to shoot. They missed all them and at the end we were the champions!"
What did you feel at that moment? What was your first reaction?
"I felt an immense joy. We'd been waiting for this achievement two years before and not to make it had been a hard knock for us. But that day, back in 1994 in Tel Aviv, we killed all our ghosts. The first thing I did on the floor was embrace my teammates and close friends Ferran Martinez and Rafa Jofresa."
Champions: 1958 to 2012
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