By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The fourth Basketball Champions League regular season is behind us and it was one to remember.
There has been perhaps more excitement than ever as various records got broken and the playoff field was unclear all the way until the final second of the last game.
Marcelinho Huertas deserves a special mention among record holders as he has not only tied the all-time high for most assists in a single game (17) but has finished the regular season with an average of 8.8 assists per game. That is the highest average any player has had so far in the competition.
Next up is a team achievement and Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem was the squad to deliver it. They made 84.6% of their two-pointers against RASTA Vechta on Gameday 10 to set a new record.
Another team achievement this season was seen by UNET Holon which has become rather known for its high-scoring games and it didn’t come as a surprise that they would be a part of this record. Holon set a new record for the most scored points in a single game and they did it in the highest-scoring game in BCL history (122-105 against Polski Cukier Torun).
Game of the Season
There have been lots of exciting games this season including big comebacks in the final minutes as well as those that got decided on the buzzer. However, the ‘Game of the Season’ honor goes to a clash that might already be called a ‘Classic’ in BCL – Hapoel Jerusalem vs. AEK.
The two squads have been in the same group last year as well and they’ve split the four games so far. Their first duel this season and third overall was a feast for the eyes as both teams put on arguably their best and Hapoel managed to come out on top with a late surge.
There have been many ‘explosive’ performances this season but only two guys managed to log a PIR of 40 or more – Dave Dudzinski (41) and Suleiman Braimoh (40). Interestingly, both guys did it against Anwil Wloclawek and did it in consecutive weeks in November.
Braimoh did it first with 33 points on 13-14 shooting while adding six rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.
Dudzinski ‘got on the train’ the following week with a huge double-double of 21 points and 22 rebounds while also dishing five assists and making one steal.
As it was already mentioned above, Marcelinho Huertas on top of the assists category but who’s doing the same in other aspects of the game?
TaShawn Thomas has been contributing heavily to Hapoel Jerusalem’s run so far and is leading the league with 21.8 PIR on average.
Justin Dentmon is on the top of the points list with 20.9 ppg but couldn’t push EB Pau-Lacq-Orthez over the hump and to the playoffs. AEK’s Keith Langford follows with 19 points on average.
As far as rebounds go, Filou Oostende’s Shevon Thompson is the only guy averaging in double-digits, 10.1 per game. In fact, Thompson is also the only player to average a double-double this season and only the second to do so in competitions history together with Babacar Toure who did it last season with Fribourg Olympic.
Teksut Bandirma’s Emanuel Terry ended up just slightly below the threshold with 9.9 rebounds on average along with 11.9 ppg.
ERA Nymburk’s Zach Hankins and Mornar Bar’s Uros Lukovic lead the blocks with 2.3 per game while JDA Dijon’s LaMonte Ulmer and former AEK player Howard Sant-Roos lead the steals with 2.2 per game.
An exciting finish down to the last second
This season had perhaps the most exciting finish in BCL history and teams in Group A were responsible for it. The standings were unclear until the very last second of the last game and it included a race for the only remaining playoff ticket.
Lietkabelis needed to win on the road against Holon but also needed Manresa to lose at home against Dinamo Sassari.
Both games went down to the wire but while Sassari was holding off Manresa, Lietkabelis was behind as the games neared the final whistle. However, the Lithuanian scored six straight points to end the match in their favor and the last three came from Paulius Valinskas who was fouled on a three-pointer with less than a second left.
Meanwhile, Turk Telekom was clashing with SIG Strasbourg in order to secure the first spot and they got the win in a similar manner as Lietkabelis. Moustapha Fall grabbed an offensive rebound in the final moments of the game and got fouled in the last second. He made one out of two free throws, which was enough to give his squad the top of the group.
Eight teams for the first time in the playoffs
To make it even more historic for Lietkabelis, this is the first time the team has made it into the playoffs. Dijon also made it for the first time as did Oostende and Telekom Baskets Bonn.
All those teams had previous experience in BCL but there are also four squads that made it to the playoffs in their very first season in the competitions.
Turk Telekom and Casademont Zaragoza not only advanced but did it from the first place in their respective groups. San Pablo Burgos and Peristeri winmasters also debuted this season and got the third and fourth spot in Groups B and C respectively.
Regardless of how the Round of 16 draw turns out, interesting clashes await across the playoff field as nobody is safe in the race for the Final Four.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League