By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Baxi Manresa off a strong finish took down FC Barcelona, 81-70, in the Catalan League final held Sunday evening at Nou Congost.
With both Sertac Sanli and Pierre Oriola missing, Ismael Bako dominated the paint and registered a game-high 18 points, including a key bucket for a six-point lead with 3:02 remaining. The Belgian center, a newcomer for Manresa, went for 7/16 from two-point range and also made all four of his free throw attempts.
An extremely close contest amid the training camp for both teams preparing for the 2021-22 season. Barca, a 22-time Catalan League champion, had a short-lived ten-point lead in the second quarter but ended up aiming for a late comeback down the stretch.
The tournament hosts captured the Catalan League title for the third time in team history. The previous top-place runs date back to 1997 and 1999. MoraBanc Andorra was the last winner in 2020.
Yankuba Sima contributed 15 points for the winning side. Joe Thomasson finished with 14 points, Sylvain Francisco with 13 points, and Guillem Jou with 11 points.
On the losing side, Latvian forward Rolands Smits rolled in a team-high 14 points. Nick Calathes put up 13 points and Nikola Mirotic ten points but was limited to 4/16 field goals.
Barca is working towards the 2021-22 edition of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. The season opener versus ALBA Berlin at home is scheduled to take place on October 1. A trip to Germany visiting FC Bayern Munich will follow on October 7.
The team coached by Sarunas Jasikevicius picked up Nigel Hayes-Davis, Nicolas Laprovittola, Rokas Jokubaitis, and Sanli during the offseason powering up after ranking second in the 2020-21 edition of EuroLeague. Returning players feature Brandon Davies, Sergi Martinez, Alex Abrines, Cory Higgins, Kyle Kuric, Oriola, Smits, Mirotic, and Calathes.
Photo Credit: Barca Twitter