By Stefan Djordjevic / firstname.lastname@example.org
Pinar Karsiyaka’s return to the Basketball Champions League has been rather successful as the team managed to overcome some ups and downs and deliver when it mattered the most in order to seal a spot in the Final Eight Tournament.
Their unfortunate loss against Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon and against Tofas put the Turkish team in a difficult position as they had to win by five points or more in the last game against Happy Casa Brindisi.
They convincingly overcame that margin with a 19-point win and Tony Taylor was the main pushing force behind the run with 30 points on 8-13 shooting while also dishing out seven assists.
“It was just the timing really. I hit one shot and the coach just kept going to me. My teammates set good screens and were encouraging me the whole time to be aggressive and keep going. We all knew what was at stake for the game, so, it was important that whoever had it going – got the ball,” Taylor said on the “BCL Coast to Coast” podcast.
The 30-point performance was Taylor’s best performance in the Basketball Champions League and his highest tally overall since going pro. The American scorer has been no stranger to BCL throughout the years and has amounted to 50 appearances so far.
He played with Teksut Bandirma in 2017-18 as well as with Segafredo Virtus Bologna in 2018-19 seasons, winning the title with the latter. Besides having a trophy in his collection of achievements, with the latest outing, Taylor also climbed up to the seventh spot on the all-time scoring list with a total of 596 points.
“It feels great to be in the Final Eight. Winning the championship two years ago was great so I want that feeling again. That’s what we’re striving to always – to be better and win championships,” he said after the win over Brindisi.
The experience Taylor has accumulated over the years across Europe and especially in the Basketball Champions League has been crucial in Pinar Karsiyaka’s efforts and he hasn’t had to take on the leadership burden alone.
In fact, his Virtus Bologna teammate Amath M’Baye has been doing a great job as well and was one of the reasons Taylor decided to join Karsiyaka in the first place. The two have created a bond on their way to the title in 2019 and it has been showing in Pinar Karsiayak this season.
Raymar Morgan has been delivering too, being the leading scorer of the team while DJ Kennedy also stepped up and was crucial in the deciding game that sent the team to the Final Eight.
After a bit of a dry spell, Kennedy scored 21 points (ten rebounds) versus Brindisi and it was his first big double-double performance in BCL since 2017. And at a perfect time.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons on the team. We’ve got one of the leading scorers on the team in Raymar (Morgan) and he’s been playing phenomenally this entire year. We’ve got a lot of individual weapons and we also play together, play for each other. Our guys off the bench are always ready to play and I believe sacrifice is the most important. We’ve got guys that could be somewhere else and play a bigger role but we play together on this team for a bigger cause and a bigger goal,” Taylor said, describing perfectly what makes this Pinar Karsiyaka squad successful.
Looking forward, the team will have to face a big challenge in the Final Eight no matter who ends up on the side of the bracket after the draw. One of the possible matchups is the reigning champions Hereda San Pablo Burgos who have Dejan Kravic on the roster and Taylor is looking forward to seeing another one of his teammates from Virtus Bologna.
“They’re a really good team. I’m actually excited to see him (Dejan Kravic) and Ken Horton in the bubble. Whoever we gotta face, that’s who we’ll be ready for. One game at a time.”
Former teammates or not, no matter, whoever comes across the experienced Pinar Karsiyaka team won’t have an easy night and if anything, the clutch performances so far show that Tony Taylor and the squad can go all the way.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League