Road to the Finals: Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas

Apr 10, 2015 by Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Road to the Finals: Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas

They say that good things arrive to those who know how to wait. Well, it certainly did for Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, a first-time Eurocup finalist, at last, in its ninth season in the competition. Since 2003-04, the Spanish club from the Canary Islands had only missed the 2005-06, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, but it has been this campaign when, with bench legend Aito Garcia Reneses at the helm, Gran Canaria has stormed into the final stage of the Eurocup. Gran Canaria boasts an impressive record this season with 21 wins and just a single loss on the road. The roster is comprised of seasoned players like Albert Oliver, Brad Newley, Txemi Urtasun and Levon Kendall, who combine perfectly with the talent of lesser-known players who have had breakout seasons, like Walter Tavares, Kyle Kuric and Tomas Bellas. Only two players have appeared all 22 games: Oliver and Kuric, and Aito relied on a consistent starting five with Bellas, Kuric, Newley, Euliis Baez and Tavares. The season started well with a 20-point win at home over FoxTown Cantu, and it just went uphill from there to end the regular season undefeated. Granca even had all-time team records in performance index rating during that phase, twice, simply showing how the Yellow machine started working like clockwork since the very beginning.

Aito Garcia Reneses - Herbalife Gran Canaria - EC14 (photo Gran Canaria)_5villsvuj8qauh6o

In the Last 32, Aito and his men made a statement by starting the phase with a resounding road win at Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari, fresh from the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, 76-91, and with young Tavares engraving his name on the minds of all basketball followers thanks to an impressive performance that earned him weekly MVP honors with a 40 performance index rating, still his career high. The only loss of the season arrived two weeks later at Banvit Bandirma, 80-70, but it was the reality call that the team needed to simply kick it up a notch. Since that day, it was nothing but wins for Granca, including series sweeps in the eighthfinals against Cedevita Zagreb, quarterfinals against Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir and semifinals against powerhouse Unics Kazan, thus completing a 6-0 this season against teams that came from the Euroleague. The team shined especially in Game 1 of the semis when it defeated Unics in Kazan by a solid 70-83, thanks to another MVP performance by Tavares and another personal record assists mark for Bellas, with his 9 decisive passes, and leaving the job half done for Game 2. Now, there is no stopping Gran Canaria. Aito is a European coaching legend, and previous ULEB Cup winner, who proves, year after year, that he can get the best out of young players combining them with experienced veterans, and this year has been no exception. In his first year in the islands, Garcia Reneses is ready to take another team the whole way. With almost no pressure on their shoulders, being regarded as the underdogs by most, the players, the coach, the fans and the whole island are ready to keep on living the dream that, if successful, would bring the first big trophy ever to the club's trophy case and a rather unexpected prize in the shape of a Turkish Airlines Euroleague spot for next season. The sky is the limit for Granca in its already most successful season ever.