Real Madrid emerged as the Ciutat de L’Hospitalet Tournament’s second finalist after beating Zalgiris Kaunas 60-63 in Thursday morning's second semifinal game. With the victory, Madrid joins Regal FC Barcelona, who beat Catalana Occident Manresa in the first semifinal. Both games were thrillers, with Madrid finally edging out a potent Zalgiris squad that led for most of the match and had a chance to tie in the final seconds. Danel Diez paced the winners with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals, while Placide Nakidjim was a force down low with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 8 blocks. Tauras Jogela was the leading scorer for Zalgiris with 16 points while also bagging 5 steals and dishing out 5 assists. Valdas Karinauskas added 13 points and 5 boards to Simonas Kymantas's 7 points and 10 boards in defeat. Madrid, who already lost to Barcelona on Tuesday by a 75-67 margin, will have a chance for a rematch in the final, to be played at 20:00h on Thursday. The winner advances to the Nike International Junior Tournament that runs parallel to the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in May.
Zalgris hit first with a Karinauskas triple, but Madrid was able to respond with a 3-10 run before Zalgiris regained the lead with a basket by Aurinas Majauskas and extended it to 18-13 on another three-pointer, by Justas Tamulis. Diez was Madrid’s main man in the first quarter, scoring 9 of his team’s first 15 points, but his team had trouble attacking a well protected rim. The Zalgiris big men ruled the glass, too, mustering 7 offensive rebounds while also stretching the defense with 4-for-7 three-point shooting from beyond the arc. Zalgiris took care of business on their own end after reaching the second quarter up by 19-15, and pushed the pace for easy inside looks or open three-pointers. Madrid was only able to get as close as 22-28 after a Sergio Sanchez long-range bomb. Jogela started feeling it for Zalgiris, providing a spectacular reverse dunk and his team rode a 40-30 lead, punctuated by a half-closing dunk from Kymantas, into the break. A 6-2 run extended the Zalgiris lead early after the break, but Madrid charged back with an Arturo Cruz three and an emphatic block and layup by Nakidjim at the other end to make it 46-39. The center kept active at both ends, as he stole a pass for a breakaway dunk and recovered from the nasty fall to convert 2 consecutive baskets at 48-47. Dimas swished a triple to keep Zalgiris up 51-47 at the end of three quarters, but Nakidjim energized Madrid to start the fourth with a spectacular block, his sixth, off a Simas Raupys dunk attempt. Madrid finally tied it 53-53 on a Hernan Gomez's basket and soon Nakidjim took the lead with a dunk worthy of a highlight reel. Jogela seized it back for Zalgiris from long range at 56-55. The offenses flagged as Nakidjin bagged his seventh and eighth blocks, but Karinauskas was able to lay one in after a Jogela assist to give Zalgiris a three-point lead with 2:36 to go. Diez assumed the responsibility for Madrid in the clutch, hitting a couple of foul shots and consecutive layups to take a 60-61 advantage. Cruz gave his team some breathing room from the line and the final chance was set for Zalgiris at 60-63 with 5 second left. Vecvagars shook loose off an inbounds play for a clean three-point look, but his shot rimmed out, leaving an enticing classic matchup in FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid.
Thursday, January 6, 2011