Unicaja is the second finalist in the Ciutat de L'Hospitalet following a 60-58 triumph over Alba Berlin in the second semifinal on Wednesday afternoon in L'Hospitalet, Spain. Cajasol was already waiting for Unicaja in the gold medal game following a 90-85 victory over DKV Joventut earlier in the day. The final game will take place at 19:00 local time. The winner of that title game will qualify for the Nike International Junior Tournament, to be played during the 2010 Final Four in Paris next May, joining already-qualified Zalgiris Kaunas, which clinched its spot by winning the first qualifying tournament, in Rome. Two additional teams will qualify to the NIJT through qualifying tournaments to be held in Belgrade and London next month. In the second semifinal on Wednesday, Unicaja, which eliminated reigning tournament champ Lietuvos Rytas by the same 60-58 score on Monday, saw Alba lead early but then stormed ahead in the second quarter and stayed there after the break. Alba rallied from 11 points down to tie in the game's final minute but Unicaja had Miki Servera to step up with 3 of 4 free throws and a steal to decide the game in the final seconds. Servera led the winners with 19 points. He got a helping hand from Malick Fall, who had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks, and from Luis Conde, with 10 points. Mario Blessing topped Alba's score sheet with 19 points, 10 of them in the last quarter, and 5 assists. Julius Wolf added 13 points, Erik Mueller 11 and Sebastian Fulle 10 for Alba.
Servera dominated from the start and scored 4 points that gave Unicaja a 6-4 lead, but Alba used Fulle and Mueller who scored from close and far distance to write 11 unanswered points. Servera scored from the arc to gather 7 of the total 9 points of Unicaja in the first quarter, but also keep his team just 6 points behind, 9-15. Only one team showed up to the first minutes of the following quarter as Alba went scoreless until the 16th minute, and by then Fall, Jose Pozas and Servera grabbed a 20-15 lead for Unicaja. Wolf woke up in time to score three points before the break and leave Alba down by just 29-27 at halftime.
Alba tied the score and was about to take over again after the break, but saw Unicaja make a 10-1 run behind points from Conde and Fall, who dominated the paint on both ends. Mueller stepped up with a three-pointer in the last minute of the third quarter, but saw Conde dish a big assist to Victor Leon for the same shot on the buzzer at the other end as Unicaja held a 48-40 edge with 10 minutes to play. Pozas with another long.distance score made it an 11-point Unicaja lead, 53-42, with 7 minutes on the game clock, but Alba still had a word left. Wolf, who scored only 5 points until that point, caught fire and scored 6 points in a row including a big dunk to change the momentum. Blessing scored from the arc and the duo combined 5 more points to shock Unicaja with a 55-55 tie inside the last minute. A march to the line on both ends saw Servera hit 5 out of 6 and Blessing only 3 out of 4. Then, as has done all tournament, Servera made the key play with a game-ending steal that denied a last shot to Alba and sent Unicaja to the title game!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010