Markus Howard dragged Baskonia to the Playoffs, Virtus Bologna eliminated

2024-04-19T22:22:24+00:00 2024-04-20T00:40:30+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

19/Apr/24 22:22

After losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Dusko Ivanovic’s team bounced back and secured the series vs. Real Madrid

By Cesare Milanti /

VITORIA-GASTEIZ, Spain – Coming into the first-ever EuroLeague Play-In Final, Virtus Bologna had a boost of belief after winning on the road against Anadolu Efes, while Baskonia didn’t take the opportunity to progress first losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv by 28 points (113-85).

Even without Chima Moneke, the home side swam on the waves of the Fernando Buesa Arena, making a huge step in the second half to secure the 89-77 victory against Luca Banchi’s team. This was mainly possible thanks to an unreal performance from Markus Howard.

Struggling in the first half (3/12 FG), the 25-year-old shooting specialist grew immensely in the third quarter, finally ending up with a team’s high 28 points with 8/19 from beyond the arc.

“We’re just so happy for our fans,” Howard said. “They deserve it. For us to continue playing at such a high level against such high-level competition… we’re happy for our fans and we’re happy for ourselves. But we still got a lot to look forward to. We’re fortunate but not satisfied.”

Matt Costello also had huge merit in bringing Baskonia to the EuroLeague Playoffs, contributing with 19 points over 3/6 from three-point range. The Basque team’s captain Tadas Sedekerskis dragged his side at the beginning and finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

“I feel very good and excellent for the players,” Baskonia coach Dusko Ivanovic said. “I think they deserve to be in the playoffs. Tonight, they played well, they fought, they believed and played with patience. We don’t have time to celebrate because we play Sunday. It’s normal for us, we play every two days. I hope we have the time and mentality to rest and prepare for the next game.”

Codi Miller-McIntyre had another “everywhere” night with 8 points, 5 boards, and 8 assists. On Virtus Bologna’s side, Tornike Shengelia led the black-and-white team in scoring with 16 points and 7 rebounds but didn’t leave an impressive mark in what has been his home in the EuroLeague from 2014 to 2020.

Daniel Hackett followed his teammate with 13 points over a perfect 3/3 from beyond the arc. Iffe Lundberg and Marco Belinelli finished the game in double-digits as well with 10 points each, but combined for a poor 2/11 from beyond the arc. Ultimately, Virtus Bologna shot 8/26 (30.8%) from deep.

Second-half show by Howard and Miller-McIntyre

After Marco Belinelli opened the bank from three, Tadas Sedekerskis replied by scoring Baskonia’s first nine points, including a 2+1 play in traffic. The two captains continued to exchange from a distance, as the three-point specialist also followed. Markus Howard presented himself to the game at 3:07 on the clock from deep, while Iffe Lundberg beat the buzzer for the 22-21 lead at the end of the first.

Virtus Bologna started the second quarter with high intensity on defense. However, Baskonia regained the lead with 5:26 left to halftime with a three-pointer off the right corner from Nikos Rogkavopoulos forcing Luca Banchi’s timeout. Isaia Cordinier managed to block Markus Howard only for him to eventually convert from deep immediately after. At halftime, it was a balanced 41-41.

Powering Baskonia up by six points (49-43), Markus Howard came back to the court with a different face, scoring back-to-back from three. Virtus Bologna couldn’t reply to the home team’s inspired run in the third, as Codi Miller-McIntyre started to deliver some magic; Markus Howard fired up from the stratosphere for the 16-point lead (63-47). However, Virtus Bologna answered with a prideful 5-0 run.

Entering the fourth quarter on a 15-point lead (72-57), Baskonia didn’t slow down for one single minute, watching Matt Costello be more effective minute by minute. Dusko Ivanovic’s team secured a spot in the EuroLeague Playoffs after five years of absence, and it will face 1st-seeded Real Madrid. Virtus Bologna, instead, won’t play anymore this season in the EuroLeague, focusing domestically on the LBA.

“Congratulations to Baskonia. Players, coaches, the club,” Virtus coach Luca Banchi said. “They had a great game tonight. But in my position I believe it’s also important to congratulate my players. Because we arrived to play this game after a very long season. We improved our identity as a team, proving that we can really compete against anybody, in every court and against any opponent. I’ll let everybody judge how much we deserved to be in the Top 8. Tonight, Baskonia had a better effort and performance especially on the offensive rebounds and 3-pointers.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Turkish Airlines EuroLeague

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