On This Day, 2007: Unicaja to the Final Four!

Apr 12, 2020 by Euroleague.net Print

It was the final night of playoffs in the 2006-07 season. Two teams - Panathinaikos Athens and Tau Ceramica Vitoria-Gasteiz - had swept their respective best-of-three playoffs series against Dynamo Moscow and Olympiacos Piraeus, and had qualified to the Final Four. Earlier that day, CSKA Moscow thrashed Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 92-71 to reach the Final Four for the fifth consecutive season. Unicaja Malaga and Winterthur FC Barcelona would fight for the remaining Final Four spot at the Palacio de los Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena. Tickets had been sold out for days and a crowd of 10,000 was ready to push Unicaja to bigger heights against a more experienced squad.

Unicaja hits first, Barcelona rallies

Carlos Jimenez and Berni Rodriguez took over early, getting help from Marcus Brown to give Unicaja a 21-18 margin at the end of the first quarter. Brown kept pacing Unicaja, then Iñaki De Miguel and Pepe Sanchez each struck from beyond the arc to boost the hosts' lead to 32-25, enough for Unicaja to keep a 38-32 margin at halftime. Carlos Cabezas added a fast break layup to make it a double-digit game, 42-32, right after the break. Barcelona needed answers on offense and got them from Roger Grimau and Fran Vazquez, who brought the guests within 48-44 after 30 minutes. Marko Tusek tried to change things for Unicaja but he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, Roko-Leni Ukic completed Barcelona's comeback, 56-58, with over 2 minutes remaining.

Sanchez buries the big shot

The game turned into a thriller when Tusek scored down low to tie the game, 58-58, in the next-to-last minute. Jaka Lakovic and Tusek then traded free throws for a 60-60 tie with 1:19 remaining, adding even more drama. Ukic stepped up with a driving layup to give Barcelona its last lead, 60-62. Rodriguez tied the game from the foul line and Juan Carlos Navarro missed a shot at the other end, setting the stage for one of the most iconic moments in Unicaja's history. Rodriguez dribbled past Gianluca Basile and dished off to Sanchez, who flicked his left wrist from beyond the arc and the ball went down with 7.7 seconds left, making 10,000 fans go up. Navarro and Brown traded free throws and Lakovic missed twice from the line, allowing Unicaja to make history.

About The Game

Unicaja edged Barcelona 67-64 and qualified to its first-ever - and to this date, only - EuroLeague Final Four. Tusek led the winners with 15 points off the bench. Sanchez added 11 and Brown had 10. In fact, Brown broke the 2,000-point mark in that game, becoming the second player in EuroLeague history to do so, after Luis Scola. Vazquez led Barcelona with 12 points while Basile added 10. Unicaja outrebounded Barcelona by 32-27, allowing the guests to pull down just 3 offensive boards. Barcelona averaged 9.0 offensive rebounds that season. Three-point shots made the difference in general (Unicaja hit 8-of-20, 40%, and Barcelona downed 4-of-16, 25%) and in particular, as Sanchez's shot from downtown made the difference down the stretch.

What Happened Next

Unicaja played against CSKA in one of the semifinals in Athens, Greece. Unicaja gave a valiant effort and held the lead early in the fourth quarter but a 14-0 run allowed CSKA to win the game, 62-50. Unicaja's 50 points are the lowest score in a Final Four game this century. The club bounced back in the Third Place Game, downing Tau 74-76 on a game-winning driving layup by Brown. Unicaja won the Spanish Copa del Rey title in 2005, the Spanish League crown in 2006 and made it to the EuroLeague Final Four in 2007. It had to wait 11 years to claim another title, the 2017 7DAYS EuroCup, downing Valencia Basket in come-from-behind fashion. Six Barcelona players in the 2007 playoffs - Navarro, Basile, Lakovic, Vazquez, Grimau and Jordi Trias - went on to win the EuroLeague in 2010.