It all comes down to one game for Valencia Basket and Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, with do-or-die Game 3 approaching quickly. Valencia looks to reach its fifth EuroCup final and potentially its fourth title, while Jerusalem has the chance to make it to the final for the first time since it captured the crown in 2004. These teams exchanged road wins in regular season action and traded home wins in the first two games of this best-of-three semifinal series. Valencia needs its most-experienced players to step up in this decisive game, including former All-EuroLeague swingman Fernando San Emeterio. A EuroCup finalist with Akasvayu Girona in 2008, San Emeterio is doing everything possible to help injury-plagued Valencia in the most important games of the season. He has averaged 10 points, 2.6 assists and a performance index rating of 12.7 in 19 EuroCup games until now, but boosted his numbers to 14 points and an index rating of 20 in the semifinals, in which he has drawn 14 fouls in the first two games. San Emeterio believes the home-court advantage could make the difference in this series, as Valencia is 9-1 at Fuente de San Luis in this year's EuroCup. "It was important to get it because, above all, it is very difficult to win on the road in European competitions, especially in elimination rounds," San Emeterio told EuroCupbasketball.com. "It is always good to play at home as much as we can."
Hello, Fernando. It has been an exciting semifinals series between Valencia and Jerusalem. How does it look from the inside?
"It is a close series. We were able to win at home by playing a good game. The game in Israel was marked by their high percentages. They shot the ball much better than us in the fourth quarter and that cost us the game. We have to play Game 3 and we earned the right to host it. We will now try to win it, of course."
Your team has had a lot of injuries lately, but has remained highly competitive. What allowed you to keep battling despite the injuries?
"Well, obviously, the first step is not to think too much about it. We know how important Antoine Diot and Guillem Vives are to our team, especially because they play the same position. Then not having Slava Kravtsov is tough, because he gave us something different than our healthy centers: rebounds and intimidation. Once you accept it, you try to play the best way you can with the players you have available, try to turn your weaknesses into some sort of strength. That has allowed us to compete, even if we would do better with a full roster."
Like you said, you earned the home-court advantage with a perfect Top 16. Is that something you had in mind in each Top 16 game?
"Yes, of course, we were fully aware and it was very important to lock down the home-court advantage in each round. You never know. After all, you can be eliminated in the first round and it is useless after that. It was important to get it because, above all, it is very difficult to win on the road in European competitions, especially in elimination rounds. It is always good to play at home as much as we can."
This will be your fifth game against Jerusalem this season. Is there any room for tactical surprises?
"Not really. Both teams know each other very well. We are 2-2 this season, so if this was a best-of-five playoffs, it would also be a decisive game! Both teams play with different styles. They have a lot of American players with good one-on-one skills who create their own shots, and we play with a more team-oriented philosophy, sharing the ball. Each team has its weapons, but gets good results."
Still, both teams in the series have been very different. What positive things did you take from these two games?
"Well, I think both games have been really similar for the home team. Both games were balanced until the fourth quarter, in which the home team pulled away. The positive reading we have from Game 2 on the road is that we were into the game despite having a bad shooting night, and even had chances to win with six minutes left. We have to try to be in the same situation on Wednesday so that we can win the game with the help of our crowd."
This is Valencia's seventh EuroCup semifinals. The club is looking for its fifth finals. Does that EuroCup culture and tradition play in your favor?
"Yes, I think so. People are really excited about the chance to see their team win another EuroCup title. I haven't reached this far in the EuroCup with Valencia until now, but people are identified with the team and the way we hold on to the game. We have been able to compete and fight despite our injuries, and that always gets your fans involved. I think this is what is happening right now."
You didn't reach this far with Valencia, but you played the 2008 final with Akasvayu Girona. What do you remember about that Final Eight?
"I remember that it was a really different format; like you said, it was a Final Eight. Mostly I remember beating Dynamo Moscow in the semifinals, which were the clear favorites to win that game. That win made us think we had done something great, and we were not able to compete against Joventut in the final. It was a nice experience and playing that final was a great result for Girona."
Does the fact that you were one win away from the EuroCup title inspire you to try to go all the way this time?
"I believe that we are all very motivated in this competition. We are really looking forward to winning it after working so hard all season. It is intense for us, but we are focused on the EuroCup. We will do our best, but the three teams alive in the competition are in the same situation, equally focused and wanting to win it. We will have to work hard and compete if we want to win it."
Are you surprised to see Unicaja in the final, after winning two playoffs series without the home-court advantage?
"I am not surprised. In fact, I give Unicaja a lot of credit. Being able to win two playoffs series without the home-court advantage is very difficult and that has allowed them to get to the EuroCup Finals. We now hope we can turn it into an All-Spanish final!"
And for that, you need to beat Jerusalem one more time. What will be the key to this critical game?
"First and foremost, we have to play defense the way we did until now. I think we are doing a good job on defense and if we can do a bit better on offense than we did in Jerusalem, I think the game will look more like our last showdown in Valencia. We have the home-court advantage and our fans behind us. We really want to go to the final."