Inside the quarterfinals: Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas vs. Stelmet Zielona Gora

Mar 10, 2016 by Print
Inside the quarterfinals: Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas vs. Stelmet Zielona Gora

Gran Canaria’s place in Eurocup history

Gran Canaria has accomplished a lot during its 10 seasons competing in the Eurocup; it ranks third all-time with 86 wins and could join a select group if it wins its quarterfinals series. Only five teams have made back-to-back trips to the semifinals – Estudiantes Madrid (2003, 2004), Hemofarm Vrsac (2005, 2006), Bilbao (2009, 2010), Valencia Basket (2012, 2013, 2014) and Unics Kazan (2014, 2015) – and Gran Canaria, last season’s runner-up, will join that group if it gets past Zielona Gora. Early in Game 1 of this series, Gran Canaria will become the fourth team to score 10,000 Eurocup points; it enters the series with 9,995.

Zielona Gora looking to make Polish hoops history

The Polish champs have already gone farther in European play than ever before simply by reaching the quarterfinal. Another series win will make Zielona Gora the first team from Poland to reach a continental semifinal since 2003, when Prokom Trefl defeated Ventspils to reach the FIBA Europe Champions Cup final, which it ultimately lost to Aris Thessaloniki. Before that, Anwil Wloclawek played the 2002 Saporta cup semis, where it lost to Valencia. The greatest feats in Europe for Polish clubs to date came in the early years of the Euroleague; Lech Poznan reached the 1959 Euroleague semifinals, but was swept by ASK Riga. A year later, KS Polonia reached the semis, but lost to Dinamo Tbilisi.

A matter of pace

Both teams feature two main point guards and they will have a lot to say in this series, because these teams play much different styles. Gran Canaria is third for the season in scoring in the Eurocup with 84.9 points per game. Zielona Gora ranks 36 of the 44 teams in scoring with 74.6 points per game; no one below it on that list advanced past the Last 32. Gran Canaria and Zielona Gora each have four players averaging double digits in scoring. On defense little separates the teams; Gran Canaria has allowed opponents an average of 74.2 points per game, while Zielona Gora has held the opposition to 73.6. Gran Canaria is 8-1 in games in which it has scored more than 80 points. Zielona Gora is 1-1 with at least 80, but 4-2 when its hold the opponents below 80. Kevin Pangos and Albert Oliver will look to push Gran Canaia when possible and neither is afraid to shoot the ball; 42.2% of Gran Canaria’s shots this season came from downtown, with Sasu Salin leading the way with a Eurocup-high 122 attempts. Dee Bost and Lukasz Koszarek share playmaking abilities for Zielona Gora.

Mateusz Ponitka - Stelmet Zielona Gora - EC15 (photo Piotr Jedzura - Zielona Gora)

There is experience on both squads

Three of the five most-experienced players in all of the quarterfinals are on the Gran Canaria squad. In fact, if center Sitapha Savane plays in both quarterfinals games, he will move into a tie for 10th place on the competition’s list of games played in a career with 86. Albert Oliver, who like Savane is 37 years old, has 81 Eurocup games under his belt and Brad Newley, who has been to the Eurocup final twice, brings 74 games of Eurocup experience. And there IsCoach Aito, who led Joventut Badalona to the 2008 ULEB Cup crown. On the other side, Lukasz Koszarek has played five Eurocup seasons (48 games), including a trip to the quarterfinals with Caserta in 2011, and Dejan Borovnjak (44 games) appeared in four Eurocup editions, while Adam Hrycaniuk boasts 84 Euroleague games over seven seasons, including the 2010 playoffs with Asseco Prokom.

Home-court advantage – or lack thereof

Much has been written about Gran Canaria’s enormous home-court advantage; since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Gran Canaria has only lost three Eurocup games at home – and one of them was by a single point in this season’s eighthfinals with the series essentially wrapped up. But if there is a team that is built for such a challenge, it appears to be Zielona Gora, which is 4-0 on the road in the Eurocup this season, including a 17-point victory to win its eighthfinals series at Unics Kazan. However, Zielona Gora is 0-4 at home! Zielona already proved in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague that is can play tough on the road; it led in the fourth quarter at FC Barcelona Lassa before succumbing late and defeated Lokomotiv in Russia. To date, Zielona Gora is 3-5 against Spanish teams, but 3-1 in the Eurocup (2-0 vs Sevilla and 1-1 vs Valencia). Gran Canaria is 3-1 vs Polish clubs (2-0 vs Turow Zgorzelec, 1-1 vs Slask Wroclaw).