Dylan Osetkowski and Unicaja are on a mission in the BCL

2024-04-04T10:45:57+00:00 2024-04-04T10:43:26+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

04/Apr/24 10:45


Praise from opponents is a luxury for Unicaja across all competitions, including contending to win the Basketball Champions League

By Johnny Askounis/ info@eurohoops.net

Game 1 of a best-of-three series does not determine which team will advance. It can be educating though, especially for teams such as Unicaja. Promitheas pointed to areas of improvement on Wednesday.

Dominating the first quarter and later ballooning the lead to 24 points signaled yet another comfortable win for the team coached by Ibon Navarro. With the advantage shrinking to six points midway through the fourth quarter, halting the comeback bid with a solid finishing run was necessary to go up 1-0 in the Quarterfinals of the Basketball Champions League, one win away from returning to the Final Four and contending for the championship in Belgrade.

Winning games is the trend. From last season’s Copa del Rey to this season, topping Group A of the BCL Regular Season with a 4-2 record, a perfect 6-0 streak in Group I of the Round of 16, and sitting second with a 22-5 tally in the most competitive domestic league of Europe, Spain’s Liga Endesa. An intriguing project backed by a loyal fan base in Malaga for many years, commanding attention and respect.

“We knew that Malaga is probably the best team in BCL,” reckoned Promitheas head coach Ilias Papatheodorou following Game 1 in Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena, “They have everything. A very deep roster, with many quality players, an excellent coaching staff, and chemistry. But that is why we are really proud of our effort. We never gave up.”

Not bad for a team starting literally from scratch one year back, competing in the Qualification Rounds to earn a spot in the 2022-23 Regular Season of the Champions League, a few days after team captain Alberto Diaz and former star Dario Brizuela helped Spain win gold medals in the 2022 EuroBasket. Don’t be fooled by the humble beginnings of the latest continental expedition. A rich history stretching several decades is highlighted by capturing the Korac Cup in 2001 and the EuroCup in 2017, besides domestic success from the 2006 ACB championship to winning Copa del Rey in 2005 and 2023. All said and done, reaching the BCL Final Four for a second season in a row and improving from a fourth-place finish at home to going all the way to the top in Belgrade might be the only successful outcome for a trademark organization and the current squad.

Dylan Osetkowski is on hand

Most players contributing to historic success last year extending stays in Malaga included Dylan Osetkowski. The 27-year-old forward has been all around Europe since 2019. Breakout campaigns in Germany opened the way to France and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, leading him to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Signing with Unicaja in 2022 and quickly emerging as a key player for head coach Navarro, sticking around for a second straight year was a first in his professional career. The San Diego native recognizes the mission.

“I think we started and continued the game with a lot of ups and downs for us. Good moments, bad moments. For what we want to do in this competition, we need to string together more ups than downs for a longer period,” stressed Osetkowski after his first double-double over 27 appearances in the top-tier club continental competition of FIBA Europe. Scoring 12 points and collecting 12 rebounds against Promitheas shaped a game-high efficiency rating of 18.

Conceding only 54 points tied a team record in the BCL. It also marked the lowest production for the team based in Patras in the league. Especially considering the talent of Hunter Hale and Anthony Cowan Jr., scoring in bunches all season long, a brilliant defensive effort. More of the same will be required next week in Patras to potentially book a ticket to the Final Four. A loss would return the series to Andalusia for a deciding Game 3.

Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

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