ESP/UKR/RUS - Terrific comeback keeps Budivelnik in title hunt
KIEV (Eurocup) - An all-Spanish Final could be on the cards for the Eurocup following Wednesday’s games which saw Valencia Basket join Bilbao in the last four of the competition with a two-legged victory over Unics Kazan.
But to reach the title game, Bilbao, who stormed into the Semi-Finals on Tuesday night with a 101-78 rout of Ratiopharm Ulm in their home leg in Spain, must overcome Budivelnik after the Ukrainian outfit hit back from a first-leg deficit against Spartak St Petersburg to stay alive in the competition.
Spartak had won the first meeting, 83-72, in Russia but crashed to a 73-56 defeat in Kiev.
Budivelnik boss Ainars Bagatskis, who will coach Latvia’s national side at the EuroBasket in Slovenia this summer and try to lead the Baltic team into the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, had his Ukrainian club mentally prepared for its most important game of the year.
“We managed to show character,” Bagatskis said.
“Before the game, we said that it was not important to think that we were playing against Spartak.
“In general, no matter who the game is against – an NBA team, the second team of the Ukrainian league – we had to play our basketball as we know we can.”
Bagatskis saluted one of his forwards for providing a momentum-changing scoring run.
“The turning point was a stretch in the third quarter when Sergiy Gorbenko scored seven points in a row and brought us the lead,” he said.
Spartak coach Jure Zdovc could hardly believe his side had failed to progress.
“Maybe we relaxed after our victory in the first game, but that’s no excuse,” Zdovc said.
“Budivelnik didn’t surprise us, but today (Wednesday) they were just better than us.
“They play a good zone, playing good on switches.
“I congratulate our opponents on their victory which has them in the Semi-Finals because they totally deserve it.”
Valencia won 80-70 at home last week over Unics and though they fell in Kazan, Russia, 71-68, the Spaniards advanced with a 148-141 aggregate success.
Evgeny Pashutin’s side had rolled to a 72-54 win in the first leg.
Semi-Final action tips off next Wednesday with Valencia at home to Lokomotiv and Bilbao, who are led by Russia´s national team coach Fotis Katsikaris, visiting Budivelnik.
The return legs will be played one week later.