By Cesare Milanti / email@example.com
MURCIA, Spain – After respectively beating the hosts UCAM Murcia and Barcelona in yesterday’s semifinal, Unicaja Malaga and Real Madrid put on a show in front of the soldout crowd at Palacio de los Deportes. Avoiding the complete comeback by the former side, Chus Mateo’s team eventually won it all 88-81, bringing to the Spanish capital the 6th straight Supercopa Endesa.
Receiving another standing ovation from the audience in Murcia, Facundo Campazzo was once again crucial for the Blancos, delivering an all-around game of 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Before the trophy’s celebration, the Argentinian playmaker was named MVP of the Supercopa Endesa for the third time in his career.
Scoreless in the semifinal against Barcelona, Mario Hezonja came to play in the final to finish with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Dzanan Musa joined the Argentinian and followed with 13 points, while Walter Tavares ended with the second straight double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“Very serious game until halftime, we know how to suffer. Those types of games aren’t going to gift you anything, we managed to come back into the game and make a difference. Everybody contributed positively to the game. I want to celebrate this tonight and then think about Zaragoza on Sunday”, Chus Mateo commented on the victory in the post-game press conference.
Kendrick Perry had an impressive start and finished it all by scoring 17 points with 5 assists. Despite going up against one of the most dominant centers in Europe Walter Tavares, Dylan Osetkowski delivered a convincing performance with 14 points and 4 rebounds, just like his frontcourt partner Will Thomas. The American guards Tyler Kalinoski and Tyson Carter also contributed by combining 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Being put by Chus Mateo in Real Madrid‘s starting five to replace the injured Gabriel Deck, the 19-year-old Eli Ndiaye spent 1:53 minutes on the court. Talking about young talents, Ibon Navarro also decided to send on the court the 17-year-old Baba Badji, who became the fourth-ever player under 18 years of age to debut in the Supercopa Endesa.
Kendrick Perry started the game hot, scoring three consecutive three-pointers for Unicaja Malaga in less than four minutes. Mario Hezonja followed with seven points, but Real Madrid began by struggling at the charity stripe scoring only 2/9 already in the first quarter. This wasn’t enough for Ibon Navarro’s team to be ahead at the end of the opening period, trailing 21-17 following Yabusele’s impressive dunk.
As Chacho Rodriguez increased danger weapons from the perimeter, delivering magic assists to Vincent Poirier, Real Madrid found the largest lead of the game that far with seven points (28-21) after 2:40 minutes in the second. Facundo Campazzo first dished a magic assist to Dzanan Musa and then came up clutch with a 2+1 play to give his team the eleven-point lead (40-29) in the closing moments of the second quarter. At halftime, the Blancos were leading 44-31 with Unicaja shooting 3/16 from deep.
After Unicaja Malaga’s 4-0 run to open the second half, in fact, Real Madrid first responded with Mario Hezonja’s five consecutive points. Later on, Ibon Navarro’s team reduced the gap to six points (49-43) following a 12-5 run, as Kameron Taylor stepped up offensively exploiting his physical advantage. Will Thomas in the low-post first and Tyler Kalinoski coming off the screen with a three-pointer later managed to bring Unicaja tying the game at 54-54 with 1:44 minutes on the clock in the third, entering the last quarter down by five points (61-56) with Facundo Campazzo’s three from the corner.
Dylan Osetkowski with six straight points and Nihad Djedovic from downtown put Unicaja Malaga up front (65-64) once again with 7:59 minutes on the clock in the fourth. Banking in a three-pointer in transition, Sergio Llull gave Real Madrid another four-point lead (73-69) less than two minutes later, writing another little chapter in this final’s balanced plot. Vincent Poirier followed to force Ibon Navarro’s timeout at 5:23 left, and the exclamation mark came with the French center’s dunk in the last minute.
Before the game, the memory of the legendary Spanish journalist Pepe Domingo Castaño, who passed away at 80, was honored with a minute of silence. Moreover, during the encounter the newest UCAM Murcia guard Dylan Ennis came to enjoy the show, being welcomed by his people with MVP chants after dropping 14 points in his losing effort against Unicaja Malaga.
PHOTO CREDIT: ACB