TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz snapped a pair of losing streaks while celebrating a historic milestone on Wednesday night in Italy. When the opening tip was sent up, it marked the 500th EuroLeague game in the club's storied history. After 40 minutes of action, Baskonia proved too strong for AX Armani Exchange Milan and its 79-84 victory ended a three-game losing streak this season and a seven-game, eight-year losing streak in Milan.
A finalist in the first season of the modern EuroLeague, Baskonia became the fourth team to reach 500 games in the EuroLeague, though it was nearly the third. CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona reached the milestone earlier this season. Olympiacos played its 500th game two hours before Baskonia on Wednesday.
Even more important for Baskonia than reaching 500 games was Wednesday's result and what it symbolized. Ending a seven-game losing streak in Italy's fashion capital is a boost for this year's team. Since it last won in Italy – 85-95 in October 2012 – Baskonia has seen many players and coaches come and go. However, the man on the sidelines now, Coach Dusko Ivanovic, also coached the team in that game.
Ivanovic got right to the point in analyzing his team's win: "I think tonight we played our game. Many games before we played very lowly, very soft. Tonight we played fast, strong," he said.
The hero of the game was Pierria Henry. The playmaker, who tallied 15 points and 8 assists, sealed the win with a three-point play that sent a 2-point lead to 5 with 11.3 seconds remaining.
"It’s a big road win for us," Henry said. "But I’ve gotta give praise to my teammates and coaching staff for a great game plan and my teammates for executing and fighting through adversity and just believing in one another throughout the entire game."
The victory was Baskonia's third on the road this season, but comes on the heels of three straight defeats, including two by large margins on the road. Beating "a big team," as Ivanovic refereed to Milan, gave his players confidence.
"We are really happy," center Tonye Jekiri, who posted a double-double for the victors, summed up. "We have not been playing good on the road, so this win is a statement. We are looking forward to the other [games]."
Is this win a turning point in Baskonia's season? It has all the ingredients to be. 500 games are a reminder of Baskonia's historical status. The players saluted the coaching staff's game plan. The coach applauded the players' effort. Henry stressed the execution and fighting spirit. Jekiri called it a statement.
Baskonia will look to take care of business at home in its next game before heading on the road again. If it continues on the path it started down on Wednesday, 2020-21 could become a special season for the club.