A pivotal play saw Wright and Hervelle hit the floor fighting for a rebound. The jump ball call went to Bilbao, which after a timeout, saw Moiso score inside. The answer man, Chubb, made his case with another high hook off the glass, but Moiso kept it going with a baseline jumper at 63-58. When Bilbao tries a surprise trapping zone, Chubb gets loose for another layup, putting him at 25 points with 3 minutes left and a 65-58 lead. Hervelle rocks the crowd with a huge triple, but Alba goes back to Chubb, who gets fouled and makes both free throws, 67-61. Just as big, Mumbu in the corner. It's going to be a big, big finish now, 67-64 with 2 minutes left and the Bilbao fans on their feet. This is as close as their team has been in awhile. Mumbru gets to the line, but misses both. At the other end, McElroy raises up and booms his own triple, and when Dragan Dojcin steals a Mumbru pass at the other end, Alba looks like a winner at 70-64. McElroy was bluffing on open threes all game to pass inside to Chubb, but he has now hit 3 of 3 and has 13 points. The small band of Alba fans who made it from journey under the volcano ash are in their glory. Yellow fever in the finals!
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 22:30 CET
The fourth quarter starts tense, and even though Renaldas Seibutis gets to the line to make it 56-51, Bilbao has gone almost 5 minutes without scoring except on free throws. Meanwhile, Wright finds Chubb inside for another layup. If Bilbao needed something, Blums supplied it, a big-jumping triple from the top to make it 58-54 and raises about 4,000 fans dressed in black out of their seats. Despite a pair of turnovers, and Blums almost making another from deep, Alba keeps its cool until McElroy cans an open one from the arc. Alba loses Byars now to his fifth foul, but with every Bilbao miss, the rebound is for the Germans.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 22:21 CET
Chubb over Moiso twice with spinning hooks, using both hands, give him 19 points, already a season high for him. But he's answered by Warren's tip-in, Mumbru's drop-step lay-in and Hervelle's lane jumper. Alba takes a timeout at 46-42, and out of it, Hamann kicks out to McElroy for a big triple. Golemac's lean-in bank shot on the shot-clock buzzer makes it 51-44, but now Warren is giving Alba's defense fits, drawing fouls and hitting free throws. Sekulic reappears with his first basket for Alba, which might need more of him down the stretch. Same goes for Jenkins, who just came off a screen for a triple to match Alba's biggest lead yet, 56--47. However, Warren and Salgado - who is 22-for-22 this season at the foul line - keep getting free throws. You get the impression Bilbao needs to find a go-to guy as we go into the fourth quarter with Alba up 56-49.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 22:09 CET
Besides those long-haul fanatics who braved the volcano ash to reach Vitoria tonight, Alba also has 2,000 fans watching live together on Eurosport2 on the big screens at their home court, O2 World in Berlin. They must be pumped to see Byars open the second half with a running left-hand layup to make it 37-30. Hervelle answers for Bilbao, but a big, big triple then flies of the hands of Wright, stepping back and launching before the shot-clock buzzer. Bilbao is upping its intensity, however, and has been able to draw third fouls on both Byars and Wright to get within 40-35. Points are coming harder now, but just like in the first half, that tough defense is forcing guys to make incredible shots, the latest by McElroy off the glass fading backwards. This game has all the look of going down to the wire.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 21:56 CET
Wow! The big plays continue. A steal and layup by Salgado adds to Bilbao's little rally, then Moiso blocks a triple, going sky-high. But Chubb is the difference-maker so far, grabbing a tipped shot an putting it back at 33-26. Warren crosses the lane for another sweet shot. Moiso is the man on defense for Bilbao, putting rocketson his feet to deny Byars by going even higher than his previous block. Crucial 2 minutes at the end, with both teams looking to seize momentum. Moiso keeps it going with a nice spinning post-up shot, but after a timeout, Chubb answers with a reverse. Bilbao needed a timeout, but couldn't inbound the ball when it was over. Alba couldn't make the last possession work, but up by 35-30 at the half, has clearly neutralized the crowd and showed it can handle itself in front of a hostile crowd.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 21:35 CET
Chubb ingites his bench with a big dunk-and-free throw combo to open the second quarter. He comes back and hits another layup at 23-20. Bilbao is trying some traps on the ball, but Steffen Hamann is playing good minutes at point guard, and now hits Jurica Golemac for an open triple, Alba's first of the night. Bilbao comes out of a timeout loking for Banic, the Eurocup MVP, who hits his second basket in close. But here comes Rashad Wright and bangs a big triple at 31-22. Bilbao needs something, and gets a sweet basket from Janis Blums, high off the glass, to ingite the crowd.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 21:19 CET
Adam Chubb and All-Eurocup first-teamer Immanuel McElroy got Alba within 8-9 before another great shot - Byars floating a one-meter rainbow high over Bilbao's big men. He followed with a running hook, and Alba was up again, 12-11. Moiso and Chubb exchanged inside shots before Warren downed a nifty reverse. Axel Hervelle rejected Chubb at the rim. Byars, one of the Alba players who was injured and out of practice, has tired quickly, coming up short on a couple open shots, but will get a break. Another, Julius Jenkins, is giving it a go after missing close to a month with a concussion. Chubb gets to the line before Jenkins heads off on a break for a layup, but Hervelle's triple ends it 18-18 after 10 minutes.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 21:10 CET
The second semifinal has begun with a little fireworks. One of Bilbao's key veterans, Alex Mumbru, got whistled for a foul and a technical in the first minute. The foul was on a three-point attempt by Derrick Byars, who proceeded to hit 4 of 5 free throws for a 4-0 Alba lead. Blagota sekulic blocked a Mumbru runner before Chris Warren opened Bilbao's scoring with a driving layup, and the men in black tied 4-4 on a monster dunk by Jerome Moiso! There's a lot of banging going on already, and besides Mumbru's 2 fouls, Rashad Wright of Alba has a pair. There will be no scoring record in this first quarter, but Bilbao captain Javi Salgado is good for the game's first triple and his team's first lead. Next, he feeds Mumbru for a double no-look layup at 4-9. Some great plays already, which is a by-product of the good defense.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 21:02 CET
The first semifinal is history - and made history! Power Electronics Valencia showed some serious long-distance shooting, breaking a finals record with 16 for 28 on the way to a 92-80 victory over Panellinios. Those were the second-most points scored in the finals round, too. Nando De Colo came back from injury to bury 5 three-pointers and score 20 points in the first half. He rested the second to be ready for Sunday's final. "It doesn't matter to us who the opponent in the final," winning coach Neven Spahija said."The better team will be there and we want to be prepared. You don't play a final every day."
Of course, the second semifinal is coming up at 21:00 CET, Alba Berlin vs. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket, with a story of fans. The Bilbao crowd has invaded Fernando Buesa Arena dressed in black, drvinnumbering up to 4,000 or more. Meanwhile, the magic bus of Alba fans that left 24 hours before game time has arrived! They had time to shower any volcano dust they accumulated on the trip and make it to the arena for a special reception from Saski Baskonia, the host club here in Vitoria. So everyone's here, and between yellow and black, we'll have another finalst in a couple hours!
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 20:25 CET
Charalampidis gets and downs 3 free throws at 75-67, which prompts a Valencia timeout with 4:39 to play. It'll be interesting to see if DeColo returns after resting for awhile. Not right away, though. Martinez powers in a layup, however, to steady Valencia. Smith, the game's top scorer so far, gets to the line for free throws, giving him 28 and making it 77-71, setting up a whole new game with 4 minutes left. But who stops their momentum? Nielsen. And from where? Downtown. Blakney is having none of it, however, and matches it a moment later. The 100-odd Panellinios fans in one corner are doing well in the noise challenge with 1,000-plus Valencia partizans in the other. But when Nielsen does it again, hitting off an inbounds play from the arc - his team's 16th three-pointer! - it's 83-74 with 3 minutes left. Out of a Panellinios timeout, his steal provokes an intentional foul. He misses both free throws, but Martinez downs a stop-and-pop lane jumper. It's 85-74 with 2:25 to play. An open Perovic dunk is the signal of the end. Valencia to the final with a record three-point shooting spree for any Eurocup semis or finals game, 16 for 28 from the arc. Amazing!
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 19:48 CET
Valencia is having a charmed semifinal. Perovic's close-in hook rolls around the rim a couple times before falling in on the shot-clock buzzer for the fourth quarter's first basket. Valencia is using long possessions now and Panellinios trying to run, a total role reversal. With 6 minutes left, a triple by Smith finishes a hard-working stretch for his team by lowering the difference to single digits. Josh Davis dunks to keep it there, 75-66 going into the last 5 minutes. A couple stops and Panellinios might et back in it.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 19:28 CET
A missing person so far for Valencia, Rising Star Trophy winner Victor Claver, gets a free throw down. If he gets started, too, Valencia will have all pistons firing. Charalampidis hits both of his freethrows during a slow stretch in terms of scoring. Big screens are being set and bodies hitting the floor, but one gets called a foul, and therefore a turnover for Panellinios, after which Perovic makes it 63-51 at the foul line. Djuro Ostojic's post-up basket is matched by Kelati's fake-and-stick two-pointer. He then pops an open three, making it 68-53. When Claver becomes Valencia's sixth player to strike from deep, it's 71-55. The orangemen have doubled Panellinios in three-pointers, 14-7, so far. But Smith takes that comparison down one with his own triple. Any way you cut it, Valencia has weathered a bang-bang quarter, leading 71-58 after 30 minutes.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 19:20 CET
Panellinios comes out smoking to start the second half. A three-pointer by Blakney and an open dunk by Smith lifts the spirits of the Greek team and lowers the difference to single digits, 53-44. Just as important, Valencia went 2 minutes without scoring. For Valencia, good news with Martinez back on the floor and a tip-in by Perovic in between two consecutive stops in which Panellinios didn't get a shot off. Now, Nielsen becomes the fifth Valencia player to hit from downtown and follows with a running hook. Panellinios is matching points, but will have to come up with more stops sooner or later. It's 60-49 after 25 minutes.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 19:10 CET
A nice simple drive by Papamakarios starts Panellinios back, then a triple by Smith makes it 39-32. Valencia calls a timeout to regroup and talk about it, but the Panellinios defense is forcing them into bad shots still. Meanwhile, Vougioukas is left alone underneath to score and keep Panellinios getting close. De Colo and Matt Nielsen, Valencia's other All-Eurocup player, come in to try to change the momentum back in their team's favor. Like that, Nielsen kicks out to Marinovic, who rattles in his triple, then De Colo goes coast-to-coast to restore the double-digit difference, 44-34. Once again, Nielsen in the post passes out top to Marinovic, bu t the best is yet to come for Valencia. To end a busted play, De Colo sidesteps and with a Panellinios defender draped over him, booms a fade-away three-pointer. Out of a timeout, Blakney answers for Panellinios, which now tries him defending De Colo, but no dice. He nails yet another triple off the dribble, his fourth. Valencia has 11 three-pointers made in 17 tries already, is going for records, and most important, leads 53-39 at the break.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 18:46 CET
Bad news for Valencia to start a more defensive-minded second quarter. Martinez went down after getting fouled on a drive, clutching his right ankle and leaving the floor. Marko Marinovic took his free throws to make it 31-24 Valencia. Good news for Panellinios in the form of All-Eurocup bench bomber Kostas Charalampidis landing his first three-point attempt, at 31-27. All subs are in now for Valencia, while Panellinios has Blakney, Vougioukas and Smith out there. Kelati lifts Valencia's spirits with a face-up triple. In his blog, Kelati promised experience from Valencia's second group, and sure enough, here he comes with another three-pointer, this bouncing off the front rim, the backboard and in. First timeout of the game with Valencia up 12 points, 39-27.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 18:34 CET
The stars were kept doing their thing for both teams in the first quarter. Panellinios had a defensive slip, leaving Martinez open for second triple, right after the first, then letting De Colo drive alone for the go-ahead basket at 19-17. Fouls are not an issue thusfar, with just five called so far. The firste sub is Georgios Kalaitzis at off-guard for Manolis Papamakarios. Valencia got another De Colo in the corner to stay ahead, but Chris Owens matched it at the other end for a 22-22 tie. DeColo shows why he is All-Eurocup first team in his rookie season at this level, dropping his third triple. He's up to 12 points already! A 24-second defenisve stop by Valencia led to Thomas Kelati sinking 3 free throws to finish the quarter. Valencia leads, 28-22 after one quarter.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 18:22 CET
For the record, Nando De Colo opened the Eurocup Finals scoring with an open triple from the corner exactly 30 seconds into the game. Ian Vougioukas did the honors for Panellinios with a dunk. He was back to put the Greek challengers ahead with an inside basket, 5-8. But at the other end Kosta Perkovic kept his team close with two drop-ins at the rim also. Both teams kept looking inside, Valenica by using Matt Nielsen and De Colo on drives, Panellinios by getting Vougioukas to work from the poste, where he passed to Rod Blakney for their team's first triple at 10-13. The next basket, Devin Smith double-pumping in the lane for his second basket, was bettered by Rafa Martinez, hitting from downtown, getting fouled and completing the four-point play at 14-15.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 18:18 CET
The Eurocup Finals have blasted off! The first semifinal, Power Electronics Valencia vs. Panellinios Opap BC
, has tipped off in noisy Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain, opening the road to the title game for one of those teams. The starting lineups: De Colo, Martinez, Claver, Nielsen, Perovic for Valencia, Blakney, Papamakarios, Smith, Owens and Vougioukas for Panellinios. Later, it's Alba Berlin vs. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket
for the same opportunity to play for the Eurocup trophy and a place in the 2010-11 Euroleague. Besides the game, follow imminent arrival of a busload of special fans from Germany who made a 24-hour trek to be here after all their flights were cancelled due to volcanic ash. Their bus has entered Spanish territory and they are being awaited with a special welcome. Follow the Eurocup Finals live blog
throughout the evening!
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 18:04 CET
Greetings from Fernando Bruesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain! The would-be Eurocup champions playing in tonight's first semifinal, Power Electronics Valencia vs. Panellinios Opap BC
, have taken the floor for warmups ahead of their 16:00 CET tipoff. Valencia, the original champion of this competition back in 2003, is looking for a shot at its second such title. Panellinios, one of the oldest clubs in Greece, is playing in the highest-level European game in club history. For the record, the first players out on the floor to get ready were Jose Simeon, the young point guard of Valencia, and power forward Ian Vougioukas of Panallinios, who has had a strong season and will be one of the players to watch tonight. As could be expected, the stands are looking more orange than blue right now. Busloads of Valencia fans - whose team colors give a bow to their region's famous oranges - are filling up the arena. Panellinios will be less represented, due to distance and the cancelling of flights across Europe this weekend, but around 160 hearty souls made the trip from Athens to join them.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 17:05 CET
The 24-hour bus trip to Vitoria of Alba fans who lost their flights due to volcano ash is proceeding apace. After passing by Paris early this morning, they were already making their way toward Bordeaux in the southwest corner of France by early afternoon. If all goes well, the 55 superfans who refused to miss their team in the Eurocup Finals will be across the Spanish border before long. The fans have been posting pictures of the trip on their own Twitter account, "Vitoria by bus"
all night and morning, and talking of the copious amounts of coffee they have needed at each rest stop. Let's hope they arrive fully caffeinated to watch their team to play against Bilbao at 20:45 CET.
At the same time that a small band of their representatives carry the Alba flag all the way to Vitoria by bus, thousands of their fellow fans will be together tonight in Berlin, watching the game at the team's homecourt, O2 World. The state-of-the-art arena features a huge scoreboard that doubles as a multi-sided TV screen that lowers from the ceiling for better viewing. That will be the next-best alternative - and a great one, too, with full coverage by Eurosport2 - for hundreds of fans who could not travel to the Eurocup Finals, as planned, due to the volcanic ash from Iceland currently halting all almost air traffic in Europe. Anyone who waited until today thinking they could fly in here will be disappointed, too, as the nearby Bilbao airport cancelled up to 30 flights today due to the ash, which has wafted south to Spain.
In addition to the home arena crowd that will be watching Eurosport2 in Berlin, fans in Valencia, Spain will be watching their team, Power Electronics, in the first semifinal against Panellinios Opap, on big screens the friendly confines of their home arena, La Fonteta. However, between 1,000 and 1,500 fans of Valencia are arriving now, and certainly feeling lucky that they weren't scheduled to fly. Most are on a caravan of buses that left Valencia early in the morning for a six-hour ride to Vitoria.
Men in black
In the Eurocup Finals players blog by Javier Salgado of Bizkaia Bilbao Basket earlier this week, he dropped this gem: "A local newspaper, El Correo, took a team picture of us "riding" Harley-Davidsons, all of us in sunglasses, looking like bad boys! It was great fun, even though I am not into motorbikes much. Some of my teammates like Harleys, however, and it was fun to sit on one even if when we didn't ride them. But who knows? Vitoria is so close to Bilbao, maybe...on second thought, maybe not."
One of those teammates who loves Harleys, it turns out, is world champion Alex Mumbru, a former Eurocup winner. "Well, I like Harleys a lot," Mumbru said. "I like cars and Harley-Davidsons, very much. So it was fun to do the picture." Mumbru said. Ironically enough, the man who coached Mumbru to the Eurocup title with Real Madrid in 2007, Joan Plaza, owns a Harley-Davidson.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 15:05 CET
Brothers in arms, opponents on Saturday
Only two players in competition history - Mindaugas Lukauskis and Edu Hernandez-Sonseca - have won two Eurocup titles, but several former winners are here in Vitoria to try to join that elite company. Three of them won it together with Real Madrid in 2007 - but since they play each other in the semifinals Saturday, as many as three of them will get the chance to lift the trophy. Blagota Sekulic of Alba Berlin faces Axel Hervelle and Alex Mumbru of Bizkaia Bilbao Basket in one semifinal on Saturday. Another Bilbao player, Jerome Moiso, won the ULEB Cup title in 2008, so he, too, would join the prestigious list, too, if Bilbao is the last team standing on Sunday.
Of course, all three former Madrid players have great memories of that magic night against Lietuvos Rytas at the Spiroudome in Belgium in 2007. "It brings back a lot good memories," Mumbru remembers. "We had a great team and I had a great time. We managed to win the ULEB Cup and that gave us wings to win the Spanish League, too."
"Winning the ULEB Cup title with Madrid was great," Hervelle added. "They are good memories but all we care about is this weekend's semifinal against Alba. We are hoping to have a good game against them."
"It was important for everyone, and we won the only title Real Madrid was missing," Sekulic said. "We wanted it really hard and it was a great feeling. Fans waited for us in the airport and in the City Hall the day after that."
It will be a little strange for them to face each other - but this is basketball.
"Not only Blagota was a great teammate, he is also a great friend," Hervelle said. "It is special to play against him, but once we are on the floor, it will be a war."
Sekulic agreed, saying: "I want to repeat that winning feeling once again, really badly. As a player, you want to want to win as many championships as you can, and you don't get opportunities like this very often."
Two other players were at the Spiroudome in the ULEB Cup final on April 10, 2007. Matt Nielsen of Power Electronics Valencia and Janis Blums of Bilbao played for L. Rytas and are ready to erase that bad memory by winning the Eurocup title.
Chasing a basketball dream - from Taiwan
The biggest surprise among the 200 media accredited for the Eurocup Finals has to be Nancy Liu, a journalist from Taipei, Taiwan whose devotion to European basketball began when she worked at the Olympics in Beijing 2008. To pursue that devotion, she is touring Europe to get her fill of continental basketball, and blogging her experiences, including this weekend's tournament. Nancy started here tour in Switzerland on March 23 before moving to Italy, where she had the chance to meet with Euroleague team Montepaschi Siena. After brief stops in Peruggia and Bologna, Nancy travelled to Ljubljana, Slovenia to attend a big national league game of another Euroleague team, Union Olimpija. She visited FIBA headquarters in Switzerland before getting top Vitoria for the Eurocup Finals. She is fully documenting her trip, with a lot of pictures, in her blog at http://abasketballdream.blogspot.com. "I want to promote Euroepan basketball in Asia and have been lucky this far. I knows a lot of players and teams, will attend to 20 games in Europe and hopefully, once my injured knee is OK, I will be able to play with a team or street basketball."
Nancy got to know about European basketball some time ago and loves its action, drama and passion. "I started following European basketball five years ago, and even when people don't know much about the Euroleague in Taiwan, basketball is becoming global and little by little people get to know about them," she said.
Truth to be told, Nancy has also been a bit lucky - in a way, she got the luck that some Alba fans lacked this week. Nancy was ready to go to the German capital this week, where due to the grounding of air transport, she would have had a hard time reaching Vitoria. "I was supposed to go to Berlin this weekend, to see them at the O2, but fortunately, they made it to the Eurocup Finals, so I rescheduled my trip," she said. "Once I leave Vitoria, I will go to Berlin and Oldenburg, and then to the Euroleague Final Four in Paris."
Ready to cover her first major European club event, Nancy will have the chance to see first-hand what the Eurocup - and later on, the Euroleague - is all about.
Posted: Saturday, April 17, 12:05 CET