Regal FC Barcelona is the first finalist of the Ciutat de L'Hospitalet Tournament after beating Catalana Occident Manresa 70-69 on Thursday in dramatic fashion. Josep Perez banked a gorgeous teardrop shot at full speed on the buzzer to give Barcelona a hard-fought victory against a heartbroken Manresa, the surprise team of the tournament. Barca will meet archrival Real Madrid in the final on Thursday night, with the winner and tournament champion advancing to the Nike International Junior Tournament, which runs concurrently with the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four 2011 next May 6 to 8 in Barcelona. Power forward Carles Gasque paced Barcelona with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting guard Nacho Marin scored 16 and Perez added 10. Manresa's strong showing leaned heavily on small forward Marcus Eriksson, who scored 25 points on 4-of-8 three-point shooting and pulled 8 rebounds. Center Johan Bitjaa and playmaker Ferran Huerta scored 12 points apiece, with the former also grabbing 10 boards. Manresa will play for third place against Zalgiris.
Manresa had a strong start to the game and was able to jump to an early 7-10 lead thanks to a couple of Albert Cantero triples, but Barcelona recovered behind the powerful inside game of Gasque, who scored 10 first-quarter points to put his team in the driver’s seat, 19-15, after 10 minutes. Barcelona came out in the second quarter with aggressive defense, jumping into Manresa's passing lanes and pressing its ball handlers, to stretch the lead to 26-17 after a Daniel Martinez triple and layup off a nice assist by Perez. A powerful dunk by Aitor Gomez made it 30-18 for Barcelona, which looked sure to maintain a double-digit difference through halftime. But Manresa fought back with 3 straight triples, 2 by Eriksson, to cut the deficit to 32-28 and reach the break within 36-32. Manresa started the third quarter aggressive again, attacking for consecutive inside baskets by Eriksson and Adria Sala to tie it at 36-36. While Barcelona struggled from the perimeter, the sweet-shooting Eriksson kept his team close with a deep three-pointer until Bitjaa and Huerta put Manresa ahead 42-45 with a layup and a pullback jumper, respectively. After a Barcelona timeout, Eriksson and Marin traded three-pointers as the game’s pace intensified and Manresa was able to stay in front, 49-54, entering the final quarter. Barcelona made a game of it and was able to counter Eriksson’s fourth three-pointer with solid defense and consecutive triples by Perez and Marin that regained the lead at 64-63. Eriksson answered back with free throws before Gasque and Bitjaa traded baskets for a 66-67 Manresa advantage with 53 seconds to play. Marin countered a couple of Sole free throws with a put-back to keep the difference at a minimum, 68-69, with 30 seconds left. Huerta had the game in hand for Manresa, but his fall-away jumper hit the rim and, after securing the rebound, Perez won the game for Barcelona by cruising the court at full speed to bank in his runner at the buzzer. The play of the game, no doubt, decided a beautifully fought semifinal and has Barcelona eyeing the title, still undefeated with a game to go.
Thursday, January 6, 2011