European basketball history books will now have a page colored orange. A magical performance from a star who doesn't know how to lose finals lifted Pamesa Valencia to the first ULEB Cup crown on Thursday with a 78-76 victory over Krka Novo Mesto. Dejan Tomasevic took over early and registered an MVP performance to be remembered a long time: 28 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Although Krka came from 11 points down in the second half to take a lead in the final minutes, the trophy was not in doubt ever for Pamesa, which took a 12-point advantage from Game 1 into Thursday. Pamesa would not have its night diminished by a loss, either, as Pedro Robles drilled the game-winning three-pointer with under 5 seconds left to send the crowd going wild. Tomasevic was almost unanimously voted MVP, with 51 of a possible 57 votes. It was Pamesa's first European title in three tries, after losses in the Saporta Cup final in 1999 and 2000. This time, Pamesa not only won the first ULEB Cup, but also guaranteed itself a place in the 2003-04 Euroleague with the victory. In the event that Pamesa qualifies through the Spanish League also, Krka will inherit the automatic spot in next year's Euroleague.
Again in Game 2, Pamesa controlled the lane with a rebounding edge of 35-25. Helping Tomasevic rule in the middle was Fabricio Oberto, with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Teh were the only double-digit scorers for the winners, but Federico Kammerichs came up big with 9 points in 17 minutes and Robles nailed 2 of 2 triples for 8 points. For Krka, Jamie Arnold led the way with 20 points after a scoreless first quarter. Boris Gnjidic and Slavko Duscak added 11 each.
The game started well for Krka, as Capin drove for a layup and was fouled near the end of the shot clock. He made the free throw, too, for a 0-3 Krka lead. After Oberto got to the line for Pamesa's first 2 points, Slavko Duscak answered with Krka's first triple from downtown. More were on the way. Tomasevic put back a rebound for Pamesa, but at the other end, Marton Bader stepped out for a triple. After Oberto's second turnover, Duscak was back for more at the arc. His second bomb gave Krka a sudden 4-12 advantage and sent the slightest murmur of worry through the Valencia crowd. But Tomasevic had seen enough. On the next two possessions, he knifed to the basket and slammed, then swooped by his defender for a reverse layup. Krka couldn't stop him without fouling, and he made 4 of 6 from the line to end a personal 8-3 run. A couple minutes later, it was Tomasevic who rebounded a fastbreak miss and put it back in for Pamesa's first lead, 18-17. After Marko Maravic took it back for Krka at the foul line, Tomasevic drilled his own two free throws to make it 20-19. Pamesa led from there, with Tomasevic feeding Oberto for a 24-21 Pamesa lead at the end of 10 minutes. Tomasevic was up to 14 points himself and Krka's early sharpshooting was almost a memory.
When Victor Luengo drilled Pamesa's first triple from the corner to start the second quarter, Krka looked in trouble at 27-21, but first baskets by Arnold and backup center Milos Paravinja settled the visitors a bit. But then Pedro Robles drilled a triple from the other corner and Federico Kammerichs slammed on a fastbreak for a 36-30 Pamesa advantage. That Arnold and Paravinja got a couple more baskets, pulling Krka within 38-34, didn't seem to bother Pamesa, which was otherwise dominating under the boards and had cut off any clear looks for the visitors from the three-point arc. By the time Tomasevic assisted Bernard Hopkins for a second time - another easy shot with clear position under the basket - Pamesa had its highest lead yet, 42-34. Only a three-pointer on a loose ball at the buzzer by Arnold could help Krka feel any better at that point as the half ended 42-37. Under other circumstances, Krka would have been delighted with that, but with 12 points to make up from Game 1, the situation was different. Tomasevic was up to 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists by that time, while Duscak was leading Krka with 11.
The third quarter started with the same protagonist as the first half. Tomasevic took a feed from Overt for one basket and drove for another as Pamesa went up 46-39. Arnold was grooving, too, for Krka, with 5 points in a row inside, but in the middle of a few Pamesa free throws, Tomasevic was still at it. He took the ball on a fastbreak and flew in from the foulline for a sweet layup that makred a new high lead for the hosts, 51-42. Two free throws from Kammerichs pushed the lead to double digits at 53-42, but Arnold and his teammates weren't giving up. They put up a 0-5 run, including Boris Gnjidic's first bucket, to pull within 53-48. Oberto at the foul line and Alejandro Montecchia from downtown equalled in the next two possessions, but Krka was able to score 8 more in a row, 4 on free throws by Arnold, to pull within 59-56 after 30 minutes.
To win the ULEB Cup, Krka was going to have to score like crazy in the final quarter. Pamesa's defense made sure that didn't happen by keeping the visitors scoreless for 2 minutes while Tomasevic and Oberto combined for a pair of quick baskets. Oberto's dunk brought the 9,250 fans to their feet as Valencia started to feel the cup was staying in town at last. But Krka wanted to leave a message, too. Gnjidic and Capin scored to cut the deficit to 63-60. But then Jose Antonio Paraiso raised up and drilled a three. And wehn Krka made the next two baskets, cutting the difference to 66-64, Oberto hit a turnaround on the baseline. When Arnold answered with another hook, Paraiso raised up again and buried a downtown shot for 71-66. But it was clear that if Pamesa was to lift a trophy, Krka wanted a win. Gnjidic put 2 more triples around a basket by Dragisa Drobnjak and suddenly the visitors led 71-74. Tomasevic resurfaced to put back around, but not until Oberto fed Kammerich under the basket for 75-74 could Pamesa count on the win, too. Kammerich missed his free throw and Robles buried a three-pointer to make sure. By that time the floor was covered orange with Pamesa players celebrating a well-deserved title.
Thursday, April 24, 2003