A new champion joins the list as Cajasol earned the gold medal in the 31st edition of the Ciutat de L'Hospitalet Tournament following a 72-70 victory over Unicaja Malaga. Cajasol is the 14th team to win the title in the history of the prestigious tournament in its first ever appearance in the final game. Unicaja which won the title already twice in the late 1990s will wear the silver medals for the second year in a row after losing the 2009 trophy game to Lietuvos Rytas. Together with the prize and the gold medal Cajasol also become the 2nd team to secure its spot in the 8th edition of the annual Nike International Junior Tournament to be held during the 2010 Euroleague Final Four weekend in Paris, France. The previous week Zalgiris Kaunas became the first team to win a seat in Paris. Two more teams will join the list through two addition qualifying tournaments during February in Belgrade and London. Throughout most of the game both sides were glued to each other. Cajasol took a 10 point lead in the third quarter but quickly saw Unicaja cut it down and stay right behind waiting for the right moment. An unsportsmanlike foul on Cajasol's Gabriel Darin helped Unicaja take a 57-60 lead inside the last five minutes of the game, but the answer came in the face of an 8-0 run that put the new champs in front for good. Ricardo Pampano and Pablo Villarejo scored 17 points each for the champion side in another great performance. Darin hit all of his 5 attempts from the field to reach 12 points in less than 10 minutes before he fouled out. Miki Servera reached a total of 20 points and 8 rebounds and 4 assists for the silver medal team, Luis Conde added 13 while while Malick Fall and Jose Pozas finished with 11 points each.
Unicaja scored the first 6 points of the game but Darin was on the mark to reply with 5 of Cajasol's first 10 points and set a 10-10 tie after 5 minutes. Pampano appeared on the scoring sheet with a three pointer and added 2 more from the line right before the first buzzer to set the first quarter score on 20-22 in favor of Cajasol. The quick pace and close game continued as the lead changed hands again and again. Servera earned his first field goal only after 13 minutes but right away added another bomb from the arc and Cajasol's lead narrowed to 32-31. Amadou showed great activity on the boards and along with Pampano carried a 7-1 run to take the biggest margin of the game yet, 39-32 right before the break. Unicaja cut two points off the gap and entered the locker rooms down by 39-34.
Villarejo and Pampano stormed the court with 5 points in a row to make it a double-digit game but Unicaja had a quick answer as Fall and Pozas cut it back to 5, 44-39 after 24 minutes. Cajasol stepped up its defense, and forced Unicaja to score only three points, all from the charity stripe, in the next five minutes, but didn't use it to make a major run. Entering the last two minutes of the third the gap was only 49-42 and Servera didn't need more than that. He hit his third bomb from the arc, dished an assist for a Daniel Perez three pointer and with a Fall lay up Unicaja was back on top, 49-50. Cajasol tied from the free throw line to enter the last quarter of the tournament tied at 50-50 and a wide open scenario to be written. Both sides showed nervousness and combined only 5 points in the first 5 minutes of the quarter, until Darin and Pozas hit a three pointer for each side. An unsportsmanlike foul on Darin helped Unicaja to take a 57-60 lead and move closer to the trophy, but Villarejo led an 8-0 run to take the lead back, this time for good. Unicaja cut it again to a single point gap inside the last 2 minutes, but that's the closest it got. Pampano and Villareja were perfect from the line and carried their team to a 71-67 lead with 13.6 seconds to play. Each side added a single point and Unicaja had a chance to tie the score but Amadou fouled out to prevent a three point shot by Servena. Unicaja's scorer made the first and missed the second in hope to save the game but Cajasol protected the ball and made history.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010