17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Game Report
to read

Paint it green: Unicaja win maiden BCL title in Belgrade

BELGRADE (Serbia) - In a hard fought all-Spanish battle, Unicaja powered through to get an 80-75 win over Lenovo Tenerife in the Final, becoming the sixth different winner of the Basketball Champions League.

The list of BCL champions now includes Unicaja, Telekom Baskets Bonn, Lenovo Tenerife, Hereda San Pablo Burgos, Segafredo Virtus Bologna and AEK. Tenerife and Burgos remain the only two teams to win the Basketball Champions League twice.

Turning point: Defense was clearly the emphasis for both coaches to start the game, and it was not the most beautiful half of all time, but Unicaja enjoyed the physicality and toughness more than Tenerife.

They built a double-digit lead and looked to be cruising towards a win. But the two-time champs would not give up, answering to every single Unicaja run with one of their own, all the way until they cut the deficit to 67-63 with seven minutes to play.

That's when Kendrick Perry decided it was his time to shine. The explosive point guard led another charge for Unicaja with a late shot clock three-pointer, followed by a steal, followed by a layup, a personal 5-0 run to send the green-and-purple team back to safety.

If Tenerife had any hope of a comeback, Yankuba Sima erased it with a monster alley-oop dunk.

Tenerife did try to stage a last-gasp turnaround by sending Unicaja to the foul line in the final seconds, but Unicaja remained calm from the stripe to ice the game.

MVP of the Final Four: Kendrick Perry was the man who missed the crucial shot in the Semi-Finals in Malaga last season, so consider this to be poetic justice. The 31-year-old loves playing against Tenerife, as he averaged 15 points per game against the Canary Islands team over their past eight matchups.

On Sunday, he was even better. Perry finished with 17 points in 20 minutes off the bench, timing them to perfection to keep Tenerife at bay and pick up his first Basketball Champions League MVP of the Final Four award.

Perry was also a finalist for the MVP of the Season award, claimed by Marcelinho Huertas, and was also named to the Star Lineup First Team this season.

Honorable mention: Nihad Dedovic with four major three-pointers and 14 points in 17 minutes of action. Also off the bench.

Stats don't lie: How good was that Unicaja defense? Tenerife came into the game averaging just 11 turnovers per game, the lowest mark of the season alongside Peristeri bwin. Unicaja made them commit 14 first half turnovers, and Tenerife finished with 19 turnovers, the most for them in Season 8 of the BCL.

Turning the ball over isn't the end of the world per se, but 13 of them were also Unicaja steals, leading to a 23-8 edge in points from turnovers. Easy points in a major Final, exactly what Unicaja needed.

Bottom line:
Lenovo Tenerife struggled against Unicaja's ball pressure and could never get going offensively, other than the big three of Huertas, Guy and Shermadini combining for 48 points.

They remain the record holders for most Final Four appearances (5), the most Final appearances (4), but they will have to wait at least another year to get the record for most BCL titles, still waiting at two with Burgos.

As for Unicaja, this is first BCL title, but also their third major European trophy, following their success in the FIBA Korac Cup in 2001 and the EuroCup in 2017.

Coach Ibon Navarro will allow his men to enjoy this one briefly, before focusing on a strong finish to the Spanish Liga Endesa Regular Season, where they still hold the top spot.

They said: