Unsung heroes led Valencia to key win

Mar 26, 2021 by Euroleague.net Print
Unsung heroes led Valencia to key win

Valencia Basket had a good chance to improve its position in the race to reach the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs by facing one of the teams in the upper part of the standings, FC Bayern Munich. Things did not look good for Valencia before the game, however, due to its many injuries

Bojan Dubljevic missed Round 30 against Khimki Moscow Region due to a finger injury. Sam Van Rossom sprained his right ankle and could not finish that game in Russia. Moreover, Valencia lost two players in a Spanish League game against FC Barcelona, Martin Hermannsson and Mike Tobey, to respective leg injuries. Louis Labyerie did not practice before the game due to injury, either.

By game time, however, everyone but Hermannsson was ready to play against Bayern, and even though the four players were not 100%, some of them played decisive roles to win the game. Some of that credit must go to Valencia's physiotherapy team, featuring Pablo Martinez, Paco Pedregosa, Adrian Valverde, Julio Galceran, Manuel Capdevila and Dr. Alvaro Sala, for helping those players recover in time to play this critical game against Bayern.

Tobey proved he was ready to play right away, finishing a one-handed alley-oop dunk for a 5-0 Valencia lead early in the game. Tobey only saw 21 minutes on the floor, mainly because of foul trouble, and had a stellar role in the win, leading Valencia with 18 points on 7-of-9 two-point shooting, 4 rebounds and 2 assists for a PIR of 22. He dunked five times.

"We had them down big in the first half, but they came back and fought the entire game and won a lot of games like that," Tobey said after the game. "I think it shows about our guys finishing the game like we did. The dream continues!"

Indeed, as Tobey pointed out, the game was a wild back-and-forth battle full of intensity. Valencia used a rain of three-pointers to get a 23-12 lead and extended it to 62-50 early in the second half. Bayern improved its defense and found its regular go-to guy in Vladimir Lucic, who played against his former team. Lucic, who finished the game with 20 points, had a reverse layup, a three-pointer, a tip-in and a fastbreak dunk in a 2-23 run at the end of which Zan Sisko gave Bayern a 56-63 margin.

Valencia found answers in its recovered players. Dubljevic hit a three-pointer on the third-quarter buzzer and Van Rossom added an off-balance jumper in an 8-0 run that tied it again, 63-63. Van Rossom, who narrowly missed a double-double with 9 points and 9 assists, made the difference down the stretch.

With the game tied at 70-70, Van Rossom stepped up with a pair of free throws and a layup. Valencia got two more critical defensive stops. Then Tobey took over with a tip-in and Van Rossom fed Derrick Williams for a close basket. All of sudden, Valencia led 78-70 with 2 minutes left and was well on its way to win the game.

"We were not 100% and it was a final, there was more pressure for us. It was a tough game for us and we are really happy. I am especially satisfied with the effort and for the commitment from all of my players," Coach Jaume Ponsarnau said after the game. "The whole team, in the worst moment of the game, the key moment, gave a very good answer, as a team."

Tobey, Van Rossom, Dubjevic and Labeyrie made an extra effort to lead Valencia (Labeyrie did not play) on the court after Valencia's physiotherapy team stepped up off the court, making sure they were available for such an important game.