Valencia downs UNICS to reach sixth EuroCup Finals!
Valencia Basket reached the 2019 7DAYS EuroCup Finals in a sweep on Friday by topping host UNICS Kazan 73-79 in Game 2 of their best-of-three semifinal series. Valencia, now on a 14-game winning streak, will have the home-court advantage in the Finals against either ALBA Berlin or MoraBanc Andorra. Matt Thomas and Sam Van Rossom led the winners with 15 points apiece. Fernando San Emeterio added 11 and Bojan Dubljevic 10 for Valencia, which became the first visiting team to win at Basket-Hall Kazan in this EuroCup season. Errick McCollum led UNICS with 13 points. Maurice Ndour and Jamar Smith each added 11 while Anton Ponkrashov had 10 for UNICS. Dubljevic shined early to give Valencia a 16-23 margin after 10 minutes. Valencia soon made it a double-digit game, 26-36, but Ndour and Kostas Kaimakoglou managed to bring UNICS within 36-39 at halftime. A three-pointer by Smith gave UNICS a 52-49 advantage before Van Rossom led a 1-13 run that gave Valencia a 54-62 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Matt Thomas, Will Thomas and Van Rossom kept Valencia fully in charge until the final buzzer to send the team to its sixth Finals appearance, a competition record.
Dubljevic got Valencia going with a three-point play that Ponkrashov matched for UNICS with a bomb from downtown. Dubljevic kept pacing Valencia with a layup and a triple in an 0-8 run that made UNICS call timeout at 3-11. Melvin Ejim hit a short bank shot before Dubljevic and Matt Thomas quickly made it a double-digit game, 5-16. Trent Lockett and Matt Thomas exchanged three-pointers, then a layup-plus-free throw by Ndour gave UNICS hope at 11-19. Mike Tobey dunked for Valencia, but so did Lockett and Ndour for UNICS, to bring the hosts within 16-23 after 10 minutes. San Emeterio nailed a triple early in the second quarter and Tobey erased Smith's jumper with a layup, good for a 18-28 Valencia lead. Lockett kept pacing UNICS and a big basket by Kaimakoglou brought his team within 23-28. Tobey, McCollum and Vives each hit three-pointers, leading to a layup by Matt Thomas that restored a 26-36 Valencia margin. Kaimakoglou sank a shot from beyond the arc, igniting a 9-1 run in which Ponkrashov and Ndour combined for 6 points to get UNICS within a point before a dunk by Sam Van Rossom gave Valencia a 36-39 edge at halftime. Soon after halftime, Dubljevic was ejected for having had both a technical and an unsportsmanlike foul. Meanwhile, a floater by Pierria Henry and an alley-oop dunk by Ndour tied it up, 42-42. San Emeterio stepped up with a three-point play but McCollum, Ndour and Smith hit consecutive jumpers to give UNICS its first lead, 48-46. San Emeterio and Smith exchanged three-pointers, then Alberto Abalde put Valencia back in front before Van Rossom struck from way beyond the arc, fixing the score at 52-56 after 30 minutes. Van Rossom took over with consecutive layups early in the fourth quarter, setting up an insdie basket by Will Thomas that made UNICS call timeout at 54-62. Raymar Morgan downed a jumper for the hosts and Kaimakoglou added a layup to keep UNICS within 58-62. Aaron Doornekamp scored down low but McCollum bettered him with a triple at 61-64. But that's when Vives hit a stop-and-pop jumper and Van Rossom followes uit to make it a seven-point game, 61-68, with 2 minutes left. McCollum buried a jumper that Van Rossom erased in penetration and added free throws to seal the outcome, 63-72. Three-pointers by Smith, Ponkrashov and Ejim got UNICS within 73-77 with 15.5 seconds left but free throws by Matt Thomas made Valencia seal a critical, historical win
Van Rossom had 13 of its 15 points in the second half and led his team in crunch time. He finished 5-for-5 on two-pointers and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He added 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 fouls drawn for a PIR of 19.
After UNICS lead 52-49 late in the third quarter, Valencia improved its defense and found a go-to guy in Van Rossom. He scored 7 points in an 1-13 run that gave Valencia the lead for good, 54-62. UNICS never truly recovered and Valencia kept full control of the game until the final buzzer.
Valencia allowed 12 offensive rebounds in the first half and just 5 after the break. Improving on the defensive boards was critical for the guests. As always, Valencia took good care of the ball, finishing with 17 assists and 12 turnovers. UNICS had fewer assists (14) and more turnovers (14).
Did you notice?
Valencia has reached the EuroCup Finals for the sixth time in competition history, adding to its own record. Valencia won three titles in 2003, 2010 and 2014, and also played the Finals in 2012 and 2017. Team captain Rafa Martinez now has another opportunity to become the first player to win three EuroCup titles.
Valencia hosts Game 1 of the Finals against either ALBA Berlin or MoraBanc Andorra on Tuesday, April 9. UNICS has been eliminated from the competition and missed the chance to reach its first finals since 2014.
Friday, March 22, 2019