Lietuvos Rytas is once again the Eurocup champion!
L. Rytas became the first team to win the Eurocup title twice and sealed its return to the Euroleague for the 2009-10 season by downing BC Khimki Moscow Region 80-74 in the final on Sunday, making competition history in the process. L. Rytas completed a perfect weekend in which it previously downed Benetton Basket Tamoil and Hemofarm Stada to reach the final. In its last three appearances in the competition, L. Rytas won two titles and made it to the 2007 final. Marijonas Petravicius led the winners and earned Final Eight MVP honors with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Steponas Babrauskas added a career-high 18 points, while Chuck Eidson had 14 for L. Rytas. Kelly McCarty led Khimki with 20 points. Carlos Delfino added 16 and Timofey Mozgov and Vitaly Fridzon each had 11 in defeat. Khimki was in control after Mozgov led a 2-10 run that gave Khimki an 8-point lead early in the second quarter. An unstoppable Delfino helped Khimki to extend its margin to 35-44 at halftime and a three-pointer by Maciej Lampe made it 39-51 before an 8-0 run brought L. Rytas back to life. Arturas Jomantas and Babrauskas fueled a 17-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarter that put L. Rytas ahead, 66-62. It all came down to the final two minutes. A three-point play by Delfino tied it at 71-71, but Petravicius, Eidson and a crucial triple by Babrauskas allowed L. Rytas to celebrate an incredible come-from-behind win. Mindaugas Lukauskis becomes the second player to win two Eurocup titles, joining Edu Hernandez-Sonseca (Madrid 2007, Joventut 2008). Coach Rimas Kurtinaitis also won his first European club title after losing two finals in the mid-1980s with Zalgiris.
L. Rytas started on fire, with Eidson burying a three-pointer and Petravicius scoring a reverse behind Mozgov for a 5-0 lead. McCarty downed a triple and then scored a floater in the lane as Khimki isolated him one-on-one against Arturas Jomantas. Mozgov made free throws and Viltali Fridzon stole and finished a fastbreak layup for Khimki's first lead, 7-9. Petravicius was unstoppable, however, downing an off-balance layup and the foul shot that came with it. Eidson buried his trademark stop-and-pop jumper to make it 12-9, but a layup-plus-free throw by Mozgov tied it again. Zavackas and Fridzon traded triples, as Khimki tried to use Anton Ponkrashov on Eidson. Zavackas went inside next for a driving layup, but Khimki's Mike Wilkinson copied him on the other end, tying the game again, 17-17. L. Rytas sub Milko Bjelica shined with a layup-plus-free throw as Kurtinaitis gave Eidson some rest. Delfino sank a floating layup and a free throw by McCarty helped Khimki force another tie, 20-20. Bjelica provided a highlight with a two-handed dunk, but Ponkrashov matched it with foul shots to fix the score at 22-22 after 10 minutes.
Early in the second quarter, Delfino sent a message with a smooth three-pointer, but Bjelica scored again to keep L. Rytas within 24-25. McCarty joined the three-point shootout while an unstoppable Mozgov added a put-back power layup for a 24-30 Khimki lead, the game's biggest so far. L. Rytas used a timeout but kept missing shots, while Mozgov added to the lead with foul shots. Zavackas revived L. Rytas with a running triple, but Delfino was ready with an answer: A seven-meter bomb high over his defender that boosted Khimki's lead to 27-36. Khimki managed to make Eidson uncomfortable enough that the L. Rytas offense stalled, so Kurtinaitis called another timeout and got Petravicius involved again, rolling off a high-post pick for a layup. Delfino was not done, however, and provided the highlight of the weekend to that point by swooping to the basket for a windmill dunk over two L. Rytas defenders. With Khimki charged up, Jorge Garbajosa fed Mozgov for an easy dunk that made it a double-digit game, 30-40, for the first time. Fridzon hit free throws that Petravicius counter-balanced with an open dunk on another feed from Eidson. Lukauskis hit a backdoor layup to give L. Rytas some hope at 35-42, but Garbajosa's free throws let Khimki keep a 35-44 advantage at halftime.
Lampe stepped up with a second-chance layup immediately after the break for Khimki's biggest lead yet, 35-46, but Petravicius copied him in the other end to lower the difference to single digits. L. Rytas improved its defense, not allowing Khimki to score in transition, but Garbajosa shined with a turnaround jumper that Jomantas matched with a driving layup. L. Rytas only managed to trade baskets now and could not get Eidson involved either. Lampe took advantage with a triple from the left wing that gave Khimki a new high lead of 12 points after 24 minutes. Khimki opted to slow down the game tempo, but could not get better shots now. Meanwhile, free throws by Petravicius and Babrauskas gave L. Rytas some hope at 42-51. Babrauskas remained hot with a triple from the corner and a power layup by Petravicius gave his team an 8-0 run and prompted a Khimki timeout at 47-51. Khimki found a go-to guy in McCarty, who downed a big three-pointer and added free throws to keep his team out of trouble at 47-56. Eidson and Ponkrashov traded foul shots before McCarty buried another shot to restore an 11-point Khimki margin. Fridzon shined with a backdoor layup, but L. Rytas was not done. Bjelica scored inside, Jomantas had an incredible block on Lampe's dunk attempt and free throws by Babrauskas kept their team within 53-62 after 30 minutes.
L. Rytas needed a quick comeback to keep its title hopes alive and Babrauskas tried to ignite it with free throws. Garbajosa and Fridzon missed from downtown and Jomantas followed a close basket with a five-meter jumper to make it a three-point game. Jomantas pushed L. Rytas with a running jumper that caused Khimki to call a much-needed timeout at 61-62. Khimki had been scoreless for more than five minutes when a wild triple by Babrauskas completed his team's comeback. Babrauskas kept it going with a high-flying tip that capped a 17-0 run with L. Rytas ahead 66-62. Finally, Khimki became unstuck as McCarty buried a mid-range jumper, although free throws by Eidson kept L. Rytas up 68-64. Fridzon scored off an inbounds pass, but Babrauskas gave his team a 69-66 edge with four minutes remaining. McCarty nailed another mid-range shot while Mozgov had a key block on Eidson that forced a 24-second violation. Petravicius scored inside, but a three-point play by Delfino tied it at 71-71. Petravicius a made foul shot and grabbed a key defensive rebound that allowed Eidson to bury a critical jumper, 74-71, with 58.4 seconds to go. A corner triple by Babrauskas sealed the outcome, 77-71, allowing the L. Rytas fans to celebrate one of the most incredible come-from-behind wins in European club basketball history!
Sunday, April 5, 2009