ANDhe Joventut from Badalona did their homework in Vitoria and subdued Bitci Baskonia 81-89 to secure a seeded spot in the playoffs. The black-and-white will face Lenovo Tenerife, while the Vitorians will have to face their quarter-final series against Valencia Basket with the court factor against them. Joventut started with doubts, looking down 16-10 midway through the first period, but as soon as the trio made up of Tomic, Ribas and Willis got on board, the game fairly went to Carles Durán’s side. The Alavese were prey to their poor reading of the game, anxiety and nerves – they received three technical and 2 unsportsmanlike – abandoning any hope of victory several minutes before the final whistle.
Despite an initial basket by Feliz, Baskonia showed more determination and success than Joventut from practically the initial jump. A triple by Giedraitis started a 9-0 run culminating in a Mate by Fontecchio that caused the first timeout for the visitors (9-2, min.3). The success from the three-pointer reactivated the black-and-white, with Willis joining later to return Joventut to the game (16-14, min.7). With the presence of youngsters like Maronka or Busquets on the court, the visitors improved, culminating the comeback after a 0-11 that left a 16-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The triples, two from Ribas and another from Willis, kept Carles Durán’s men with their hands firmly on the steering wheel (23-30, min.14). The return to the field of several starters improved Baskonia, but with only Baldwin and Costello successful in attack, Spahija’s men were unable to get close to their rival. 5 consecutive points from Parra put the black-and-white 9 points ahead, a difference that widened after a technique to Baldwin (35-45, min. 19) and that was maintained at halftime after a final basket by Tomic (37-47).
The Vitorians, who had scored only 4 triples with a low percentage (28%), left the locker room with a much better aim. Peters, Giedraitis and Fontecchio hit from long range to give the fans back their breath (48-51, min.24). Baldwin’s return to the court was accompanied by another three-pointer from the American who left the distance in just one possession, but Joventut withstood the pull and took advantage of the local nerves to prevent the fire from spreading. Willis scored a soothing triple and Tomic acted as the leader in the paint to rebuild a comfortable cushion to enter the final stretch (55-63, min.30).
Granger and Baldwin tried to reinvigorate a Basque team too anxious and too difficult to defend Tomic. The Croatian scored the first two black-and-white baskets of the last quarter, which preceded two three-pointers by Ribas and Vives that set off all the alarms on the local side (61-73, min.33). Spahija’s men took advantage of Tomic and Ribas’ rest minutes, in addition to free throws, to bail out water (69-75, min. 35). Granger tightened the match even more from the line, putting his team to just 4 points, at which point Durán returned Ribas to the track.
The shooting guard took advantage of a defensive mistake by Costello to nail a triple that marked a turning point in the match. A new technique to the local team -this time to Costello-, preceded an unsportsmanlike in an action by Giedraitis on Parra that led to the expulsion of the Lithuanian -it was his second unsportsmanlike- and in a 2 + 1 plus possession for the black-and-white. The partial extended to a 2-13 that placed a 73 to 88 entering the last two minutes that it was already impossible to compensate.
81 – Bitci Baskonia (16+21+18+26): Baldwin (17), Giedraitis (11), Fontecchio (14), Peters (6), Enoch (8) -starting five-, Raieste (-), Granger (15), Wetzell (-), Costello (7), Sedekerskis (-) and Kurucs (3).
89 – Joventut from Badalona (21+26+16+26): Vives (9), Feliz (9), Parra (11), Willis (14), Tomic (24) -first five-, Busquets (1), Ribas (19), Ventura (-), Bassas (-), Birgander (2) and Maronka (-).
Referees: Carlos Peruga, Vicente Bultó and David Sánchez. They pointed out technique to Baldwin (min.19), Peters (min.27) and Costello (min.37) and also expelled Giedraitis (min.37) for an unsportsmanlike double fault. Without eliminated.
Incidents: match corresponding to the thirty-fourth round of the Endesa League, the last of the regular phase, played at the Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria before 6,578 fans.