Tau Ceramica topped Spanish League rival Winterthur FC Barcelona 82-87 Sunday at Prague's Sazka Arena to wrap up third place at the 2006 Final Four. Predrag Drobnjak had his biggest game since November with 19 points and 7 rebounds to pace Tau. Travis Hansen scored all of his 15 points in the first half as Tau opened an 11-point halftime advantage. Barcelona fought back and led briefly near the end of the third period, but Tau came back and held on for the victory. Serkan Erdogan added 14 off the bench, Luis Scola chipped in with 11 and Pablo Prigioni dished 6 assists. Barcelona, playing in its first Final Four since winning the title in 2003, finished winless despite the efforts of Gregor Fucka and Juan Carlos Navarro, who had 20 points apiece. Fucka also had 9 rebounds, while Bootsy Thornton scored 18.
Shammond Williams needed just 19 seconds to score the first points with a mid-range jumper. Tau's first points came from Travis Hansen at the line. Williams continued to pace Barcelona with a driving layup, and Bootsy Thronton gave the club an 8-4 lead with a basket-plus-foul. Tau, which had committed three turnovers in as many minutes, closed the gap on a Predrag Drobnjak layup, but then star forward Luis Scola went to the bench with two fouls. Hansen buried a triple to give Tau its first lead, 8-9, midway through the opening quarter. Navarro countered with a trademark floater before Hansen scored in penetration for a 10-11 Tau edge. Williams fed Denis Marconato for an alley-oop layup, but Pablo Prigioni scored on the other end. Like in the semifinal against CSKA, Marconato went to the bench with three early fouls, while Hansen fired in another bomb from downtown. Gregor Fucka scored in the paint and Thornton hit a turnaround jumper to bring Barcelona within 16-17. Thornton canned a corner triple, but back-to-back baskets by Serkan Erdogan and Drobnjak ignited a 0-7 run, which Prigioni capped with a buzzer-beating triple to give Tau a 19-26 lead after 10 minutes.
Michalis Kakiouzis's free throws and a Fucka bank shot kept Barcelona in the game, as Tau had trouble scoring without Hansen on court. Drobnjak stepped up with three the hard way and then Erdogan added a layup for his team's biggest lead yet, 23-32. Roger Grimau worked his way in the post to score, but Kornel David immediately matched it with an easy layup and Roko-Leni Ukic stole the ball and coasted for an easy layup, which made it an 11-point game and forced Barcelona to call timeout. Jordi Trias dunked it and Juan Carlos Navarro fired in another "bomba," but Scola responded with his first basket of the game from the blocks to keep Tau in charge, 29-38. Grimau stole the ball and scored two and then Williams canned a six-meter jumper to make Tau call timeout at 33-38. The move worked as Tau came back with the right attitude, with Scola, Sergi Vidal and Hansen fueling a 6-point spurt that boosted their team's lead to 33-44. Navarro nailed a corner triple, but Hansen answered from downtown to give Tau a 36-47 lead at halftime.
Drobnjak remained active after the break with a five-meter jumper, which Prigioni followed with a fast break layup to give Tau a 15-point lead. Fucka tried to get Barcelona going with a layup and Navarro followed with a big triple from the top of the key. However, Casey Jacobsen responded from the line and Scola threw in a huge basket in the low post. Fucka continued to pace Barcelona with free throws and then a three-point play that brought his side within 46-55. Tau began struggling on offense, while Fucka took over with a second-chance basket. Navarro canned a triple to made it a five-point game and bring on a Tau timeout. Ed Cota capped a 12-1 run with a pair of free throws, and then David ended his team's scoring drought with a reverse layup. But Barcelona was back . Thronton made free throws, Fucka continued to cause troubles for Scola and Navarro scored in penetration and buried a fast break triple to put Barcelona ahead, 60-58. Ukic made back-to-back buckets to give Tau a 60-62 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Scola scored underneath and Erdogan hit a pull-up jumper for a 60-66 Tau lead, capping a 0-8 run. David provided the highlight with a monster dunk, but Fucka bettered him with a layup and the free throw that came with it. Erdogan hit another mid-range jumper, while Sergi Vidal managed to stop Navarro, who missed two in a row. Thornton made a free throw to bring his team within 65-70 with six minutes to go. Cota canned a stop-and-pop jumper, but Drobnjak erased it with an acrobatic layup. Thronton scored in the low post, but Ukic bettered him with a triple to give Tau a 69-75 edge. Barcelona coach Dusko Ivanovic opted to play with Williams and Cota together for just the second time this season, while Fucka continued to stand out with a four-meter baseline jumper. Scola stepped up again with a three-point play and Tau entered the final three minutes with a 73-80 lead. Thornton and Williams gave Barcelona some hope at 76-80, while a free throw by Navarro got his team one point closer with 1:36 to go. Drobnjak scored in the paint, but Fucka followed with a driving layup and a three-point play for a 79-85 Tau lead in the final minute. Barcelona never recovered and a layup by Erdogan sealed the outcome.
Sunday, April 30, 2006