What's up, everyone! It's Matt Thomas of Valencia Basket, here with another blog post. You might be getting tired of me by now, but much has happened since my last post and I want to get you caught up to speed! So let's go.
When you last heard from me it was back in early February. Our team was finishing up the Top 16 in the 7DAYS EuroCup and getting ready for the Copa del Rey in the Spanish League. I was also getting excited for Falles in Valencia and to have some family and friends come out to visit!
Copa del Rey – We drew Barcelona as our first opponent in the Copa del Rey, which was played in Madrid this year. As everyone knows, they are a very talented and well coached team and have been playing great basketball this season. That continued for them in the Copa del Rey. We played them tough, competed, and were winning for the majority of the game, but in the end we couldn't pull out the win. In the final minutes of the game, Barcelona just made more winning plays than we did. They went on to win the tournament in a great final against Real Madrid.
"I think our arena and fans give us a great home-court advantage"
Fallas and Family – Right now in Valencia there is a celebration going on called Falles. Explaining this festival is hard to put into words, but I'll do my best to give you a brief overview. Every day at 2 p.m. fireworks go off in the city center. It's a site to see. It's not exactly the fireworks I'm used to seeing back home on the Fourth of July. These fireworks are more of just smoke and extremely loud sound. Along with the fireworks people dress up in traditional costumes and dresses for the occasion. Oh, and there are also hundreds of colorful pieces of art called ninots all over the city. Made out of papier-mâché, some are as tall as 20 or 30 feet. They are pretty incredible! There is definitely a lot of excitement around the city during this celebration. It's cool for me to be a part of it. My mom and sister were also able to come visit me this past week. It was fun for them to see and experience Fallas and all of the culture. I enjoyed seeing and spending time with them while showing them some of the places I frequent in Valencia.
Spanish League – Currently we have a record of 14-9 in the Spanish League. We have played really well at times, but just haven't found the consistency that I feel like we need to reach the level that we are capable of. We just lost a tough game on the road against Fuenlabrada. It's only my second year playing in the Spanish League, but I feel like the overall level from top to bottom is extremely competitive. Anyone can really beat anyone on any given night. As a competitor, I love it.
EuroCup – We ended the Top 16 of the EuroCup with a 6-0 record and secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Doing this was very important for us because I think our arena and fans give us a great home-court advantage. Having said that, it doesn't guarantee anything for us. We still need to go out and compete every night to give ourselves a chance to win.
"These are the moments and games my teammates and I work and prepare ourselves for all year"
EuroCup Quarterfinals – We matched up with Rytas Vilnius in the first round of the playoffs. On a personal level, it was fun for me to see and catch up with my former teammate, Eimantas Bendzius. Game 1 was in Valencia. The first half was close and competitive, as expected in a playoff series. Unfortunately, the point guard for Rytas, Chris Kramer, suffered an injury in the first half that sidelined him for the rest of our series. In my opinion, injuries are the worst part of sports. His absence required other guys on their team to step up. In the second half, we found our rhythm and in the end came away with the win. Game 2 in Vilnius was a great atmosphere. The arena they have there is big time. They came out with a lot of energy and passion and we went into halftime trailing. The second half proved to be another good moment for us as we were able to really lock in defensively. Our defense in that second half ultimately helped us come away with the win and secure our spot in the semifinals.
EuroCup Semifinals – We are set to play UNICS Kazan in the semis. Again I will face off against a former teammate. Melvin Ejim and I played together for one year in college at Iowa State. I don't think I've seen him since school, so I'm looking forward to catching up. It's cool how basketball can bring people back together like this. Regarding Kazan, they are a very tough opponent and have a lot of talent. We will need to be prepared to compete and match their intensity to give ourselves a chance to advance to the finals. These are the moments and games that my teammates and I work and prepare ourselves for all year. I'm eager and excited for the semis to start on Tuesday in Valencia!
That's all I have for now. Stay tuned!