Valencia Basket wrote another brilliant page into its celebrated EuroCup history on Friday. It may have happened almost 5,000 kilometers from home in Kazan, Russia, but it was familiar territory for Valencia.
In 2014, Valencia won its third EuroCup title at Basket-Hall Kazan after sweeping its series against UNICS. Five years later, Valencia was on a mission to win Game 2 of their best-of-three semifinal series and make it to the club's record sixth EuroCup Finals.
Of course, it was not easy, especially after Valencia lost Bojan Dubljevic early in the second half. The EuroCup's all-time top scorer was called for a technical foul in the first half and committed an unsportsmanlike foul soon after the break. UNICS took advantage of it to take a 52-49 lead behind an inspired Jamar Smith.
Valencia needed a go-to guy and actually found two at the point guard spot: Guillem Vives and Sam Van Rossom. Vives had scored 6 of his 8 points in the first half, but his sole second-half basket, a mid-range jumper, gave Valencia a 61-66 margin in a critical moment. He was also Valencia's main defensive force, slowing down Regular Season MVP Pierria Henry like no other player had done before this season. Henry, who averaged 12.2 points on 45.2% three-point shooting in the regular season, was limited to 3.5 points on 0-of-9 from downtown and a performance index rating of minus-2 in the semifinals, mainly because of Vives's great on-the-ball defense.
Van Rossom truly made the difference in this game. He had 13 of his 15 points in the second half and led his team in crunch time. He hit all of his 5 two-point shots and was perfect in two trips to the foul line, as well. His late heroics - back-to-back layups when UNICS was getting closer in the final minutes - helped Valencia seal the win. Van Rossom will next play his third EuroCup Finals and seek his second title. Van Rossom is quietly having an excellent season averaging 9.1 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 60.3% on two-pointers, 43.5% on threes and 86.7% on free throws in 22 minutes per night.
Valencia kept calm under difficult circumstances and cruised to a historic win. It is now on a 14-game winning streak - its longest in the competition. Valencia previously won 13 consecutive games in the 2016-17 season. All that matters now is getting two more wins, consecutive or not, to make sure Valencia finishes the season on top of the podium for the first time since 2014.