The Giants or the 2017 Champs? Antwerp's youngsters facing a massive challenge against Tenerife
ANTWERP (Belgium) - Iberostar Tenerife won at home, AEK won at home, now the pressure switches to Telenet Giants Antwerp to keep the tradition of the host-winners of the Basketball Champions League.
Iberostar Tenerife will be the official hosts in this Semi-Final. The 2017 champs stormed to a 12-2 score at the end of Group B competition, trailing only UCAM Murcia in the Regular Season, along with AEK and Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem who also stood at 12-2. In the Play-Offs, Txus Vidorreta's boys showed tremendous character to come from behind against Promitheas Patras in the Round of 16 and Jerusalem in the Quarter-Finals.
Telenet Giants Antwerp had the longest journey of them all, coming from the Qualifying Rounds where they had defeated AEK Larnaca and Red October Cantu. The Belgian Cup winners then secured a 7-7 record in Group C, taking them to the 13-1 UCAM Murcia in the Round of 16. They defended their lead from the first leg, before storming past Nizhny Novgorod to reach the Final Four.
Key matchup: Even though they aren't playing the same position, it will be about Tim Abromaitis against Ismael Bako. The two big guys are the kind of players who usually show you how their team performs - if they score big and play their best, the chances are that they ended up with a win in the end.
Tenerife's Abromaitis already knows how to win a Basketball Champions League Semi-Final. His 19 points and 9 rebounds were both game-highs against Umana Reyer Venezia in 2017, taking Tenerife to the Final, in which they moved past Banvit and lifted the trophy.
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Antwerp's Bako will probably be more important on the defensive end of the floor. Having the second best blocker of the Basketball Champions League in total blocks this season helps his teammates increase the defensive pressure outside of the painted area, knowing they have a tower behind them, ready to block 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes.
Key stats: With Iberostar Tenerife being in Top 3 of almost every single advanced stat of the Basketball Champions League, Telenet Giants Antwerp will know they have a mountain to climb. And speaking of climbing, they must get after all the board in this one.
Tenerife will not give them a lot of chances, grabbing a league-leading 56.7 percent of all available rebounds underneath both rims. Antwerp are out of the Top 10 in that column, with 50.9 percent of all rebounds ending up in their hands.
In layman's terms, the rebounding percentage stat is just a sophisticated way of saying that whoever wins the 50-50 balls and bounces will also end up winning the game and moving on to the Final on Sunday.
They said: "It's been a process, we just took it one step at a time. We wanted to qualify for the (Regular Season of the) Champions League at first, then we wanted to be competitive every night, and then we got a Play-Off spot. We've been playing really well together, we hope to keep it going this weekend. We have some great young Belgian talent in this country, and on this team with Hans (Vanwijn) and Ismael (Bako), and even some younger guys below them. We just want to show that the best Belgian teams can be really competitive in Europe." - Dave Dudzinski, Telenet Giants Antwerp's team captain.
"(The experience of 2017) means a lot. We know that Antwerp are a really good team, and playing at home with a great support is a big plus for their energy. We have to be ready for that, and play our game. After the first game against Promitheas in the Round of 16 we had a very big challenge, and we were really focused, we wanted to continue being here in this competition. We faced a great team in Jerusalem in the next round, we knew that they are a very dangerous team, but we were focused again and now we are here, we want to continue with this momentum." - Nico Richotti, Iberostar Tenerife's team captain.
"This story start the last year, when we brought this group together, and we had to face three rounds of qualification. And we just lost the last game in Poland... This year we played the qualification again, so the first goal was just to make it, and like David said, to be competitive. I think we did that the whole year, and we'll also do it this weekend. It should be a great atmosphere, the gym looks really nice, and it should be a big party for everybody here. As a player, the first thing you've got to do is just enjoy this and play as hard as you can. Because, especially for my guys, almost all of them at the beginning stages of their careers, you never know what's next, but maybe you're not going to be at this stage again. So you got to enjoy it to the fullest." - Roel Moors, Telenet Giants Antwerp's head coach.
"In Greece and in Spain the host was the winner. If we win the first game, we have the chance to win the title, but it's going to be very difficult because first of all we need to change the history (of hosts winning the Final Four). Small-ball is now on top of European basketball, and basketball all over the world. We will try to defend well this kind of players, but it's not always possible. For us the most important question is being a collective because Antwerp are a good team. Not only in the backcourt. Bako, Dudzinski, Tate, the new players...they have a big team. They play very easy, but very effective." - Txus Vidorreta, Iberostar Tenerife's head coach.
When: Friday, May 3, 21:15 CET.
Where: Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium.