When Tofas Bursa committed 2 turnovers in the final 35 seconds and missed 2 free throws with 9.9 seconds to go, Sammy Mejia must have been thinking: "No, not again!" But the Turkish side managed to avoid a third heart-breaking home loss in a do-or-die game and finally reach the Top 16 of the 7DAYS EuroCup.
Mejia scored a game-high 21 points as Tofas collected its second victory of the season over Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, 92-90 at home to book its first-ever ticket to the next round of the competition. But the team didn’t make it easy on its fans, nearly giving away an 11-point lead with 1:50 minutes left in the game. In the end, though, it was the Bursa crowd that was able to celebrate - not to mention a much-relieved Mejia.
"I’m so happy about this win. We have a history the last couple of seasons, we couldn’t qualify for the Top 16. To have this kind of win at home in front of our fans after two heartbreaking losses the last two years it feels so good. I'm so happy to share this with the city of Bursa and our fans," said Mejia, who is spending his fifth season with Tofas.
The 36-year-old and the Bursa fans have been through a lot of heartache in the EuroCup. In its first season in the competition in 2017-18, Tofas faced a do-or-die in Round 10 at home against Zenit St Petersburg. The team ended up losing 76-80 in front of the home fans and its European campaign was over with a 4-6 record.
The same situation came up last season as Tofas opened the 2018-19 campaign with a 1-3 mark but could have reached the Top 16 with a Round 10 win at home over Limoges CSP. Once again, Mejia and Tofas were left wondering what if as Limoges won 92-98 to advance to the Top 16.
Tofas opened this season with a 2-2 mark - two home wins and two road losses. Tofas managed a huge road victory in Round 5, getting a game-winner at the buzzer from Tarik Phillip to win 69-72 over Lokomotiv. Three losses in the next four games followed and left the Tofas faithful biting their fingernails going into its Round 10 encounter with Lokomotiv.
Mejia came up big all game for Tofas, not only hitting 6 three-pointers in scoring 21 points but also chipping in 1 rebound, 4 assists and 1 steal. In doing so, he also moved into seventh place on the EuroCup career scoring charts with 1,163 and has six more games to keep climbing the charts with third place (1,192 points by Alex Mumbru) a realistic target. Most important was that Mejia was on the court in the final 2 minutes when the team fell apart and nearly gave up the game. But after two seasons of heartbreak, Mejia and the Tofas fans could finally celebrate.