Last week saw the final game in a handful of major European domestic basketball leagues – including Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Serbia – and so BallinEurope offers the final and complete roundup of this year’s champions. And it seems like the season just began … ah, well, onto the 2012 Olympics!
(Incidentally, conclusion of the playoffs means that the new version of the ever-popular Euroleague Transfers Table will be uploaded in a day or two; BiE’s working on it now…)
Euroleague: The top level in all of Europe provided one of the Continent’s top-level upsets when Olympiacos topped the highly-favored CSKA Moscow on Georgios Printezis’ runner which exploded the internet with less than two ticks remaining on the game clock. Olympiacos created an instant classic this year, nipping the Red Army, 63-61, after lagging behind for nearly the entire game – utterly subjectively speaking, the marvelous comeback kinda recalled two NBA playoff matches from way-back-when, a.k.a. 2002: this and this.
Again, congratulations to Olympiacos and thanks for the most memorable Euroleague championship title in years…
ULEB Eurocup: In mid-April, BC Khimki Moscow Region became the first unlicensed team to officially join the 2012-13 Euroleague ranks – grabbing its first-ever Eurocup title in the process – with its 77-68 championship game victory over ACB side Valencia Basket. Better yet, the Russian team capped its 14-2 Eurocup run by re-signing head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis.
FIBA Eurochallenge: After a 2011-12 campaign which saw Deron Williams, Adam Morrison, Semih Erden, Carlos Arroyo and Pops Mensah-Bonsu suit up for the club for all or part of the season, Beşiktaş Milangaz earned entry into the 2012-13 Eurocup league by topping Elan Chalon in a 91-86 shootout in the Eurochallenge championship. Now can they avoid the Eurochallenge Championship Curse?
Adriatic League: It was all Maccabi Tel Aviv in this year’s Liga ABA: David Blatt’s side finished its 26-2 run with an 87-77 victory over Cedevita Zagreb in the finals. Final Four tournament MVP was Keith Langford, “who joined Maccabi at the begining of the season from Khimki[. Langford] was the team’s second-best scorer in the semifinal, when he made 17 points, while in the final he was unstoppable with 21 points and a perfect score from free throws and three-pointers.”
Balkan League: Hapoel Gilboa Galil outlasted BC Levski in overtime, 89-84, for its first-ever European title. Unfortunately, the small-market club won’t be getting any “money prizes” for the effort, as these will be awarded to Balkan League clubs beginning in 2012-13.
Baltic League: In the all-Lithuanian final, Žalgiris Kaunas completed a BBL threepeat in beating longtime rival Lietuvos Rytas, 74-70. (This after immolating Siauliai, the third Lithuanian team in the semifinals, 117-64.)
VTB United League: CSKA Moscow won its first title of 2011-12 in the VTB United League just eight days before the Euroleague Final Four began. Fellow PBL side Unics Kazan fell to the Red Army in the championship game, 74-62. Named this tournament’s MVP was – you guessed it – Andrei Kirilenko.
Albania: SK Tirana finished what is nearly Europe’s shortest season (take a look at Malta’s, for comparison’s sake) with a perfect 19-0 record; the three-game sweep of Basket Kamza in the finals ended with a 73-62 score line in favor of the repeat champions.
Austria: Thursday night saw Xion Dukes Klosterneurberg claim the Admiral Austrian Basketball League title in its return bid to the country’s championship final after a 22-year drought. In the season-sending game four, Curtis Bobb turned in a nice performance of 23 points and six rebounds.
Belarus: BC Minsk-2006 once again destroyed the domestic competition, closing out 2011-12 with a 97-74 championship game victory over Grodno-93. Perhaps it was something of revenge for Minsk as well: Carrying a 46-0 run into the season from the last, the team extended it to 56 consecutive wins in Belarus before losing to Grodno in January. Minsk had to settle for a 33-2 mark this season (and 5-19 cumulative in Eurochallenge and VTB United play).
Belgium: The Ligue Ethias title was taken by Base Oostende in a game five thriller that came down to a Matt Lojeski three and a defensive stop for a 75-74 OT win over four-time defending champions Spirou Charleroi. At no. 21 on the Euroleague’s B-license rankings for 2012-13, the victory would appear to give Oostende a spot in the qualifying round tournament – but definitely the team’s first Belgian championship since 2007.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Siroki Wwin ended up topping BC Igokea in the decisive game five of the Liga 6 championship series, 86-77 in late May, for its fourth straight championship. On June 9, however, the club announced a rather negative development in that the team will not compete in the 2012-13 Eurocup, by which they entered as fifth-place finishers in the Adriatic League – beating out squads like Crvena Zvezda/Red Star Belgrade and Union Olimpija, BiE might point out.
Eurobasket.com quoted Siroki club president Ante Suton as explaining, “We have tried to come up with necessary funds for participation in a strong ULEB EuroCup. However, these are times for cost reductions, not for cost increases. [The] Adriatic League is the best competition for us at the moment.”
Bulgaria: Lukoil Academik bagged its 10th consecutive Bulgarian title by sweeping Levski Sofia in the best-of-five championship series there. The perpetual Eurocup club is now 68-3 in the past two seasons back home.
Croatia: Cibona Zagreb got something like redemption in taking the HKS title over Adriatic League runners-up Cedevita Zagreb. The longtime local powerhouse outlasted Cedevita, winning three games to one.
Cyprus: Once again, InterCollege Etha Engomis managed upsets in the tournament bracket to defend its Cypriot national championship. After coming from the no. 4 spot in last year’s eight-team tournament, Etha ranked third after a 12-4 regular season (plus 3-5 in Eurocup qualifiers/Eurochallenge play) but upended top dogs Keravnos in the finals. Sharp-eyed observers/NBA addicts may have caught well-traveled Etha leader Darryl Finesse Hawkins – he’s played in Lebanon and China in addition to Cyprus and small towns in the ‘States – getting in a few games with the New Orleans Hornets at the tail end of the season.
Czech Republic: Eurocup/VTB United League team CEZ Nymburk swept back-to-back runners-up BK Prostejov, four games to zero, for its ninth consecutive Czech title.
Denmark: The Bakken Bears defended their Ligaen title, again defeating the Svendborg Rabbits in the final series, 4-2. Bakken’s Joshua Alexander, formerly of Stephen F. Austin, was named tournament MVP and regular-season MVP.
Estonia: VTB United/Baltic League team Kalev/Cramo made it back-to-back national titles, again sweeping Tartu University/Rock in the best-of-seven championship series.
Finland: A new champion was named in Finland, as the Nilan Bisons (or LoKoKo) won the Koriisliga title over Joensuun Kataja with a solid 83-66 victory in the final game. The Bisons were buoyed by Martin Zeno’s all-around line of 22 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Kataja was also the Finnish runner-up in 2011-12.
France: Chalon/Saône earned a 2012-13 Euroleague bid by winning handily against Le Mans in the LNB championship game, 95-76. Loyola University Chicago alum Blake Schilb was the MVP for Chalon, with a big 20-point, 10-assist performance.
Germany: Brose Baskets Bamberg swept Ratiopharm Ulm in the Bundesliga championship series, three games to zero, to once again earn a spot in Euroleague play. The win also finished off what BiE contributor David Hein calls a “double three-peat,” i.e. taking the German Cup and league title in the same season.
Greece: Olympiacos wins!
Holland: Eiffel Towers Den Bosch took the title from 2010-11 champs ZZ Lieden, three games to one.
Hungary: Szolnoki Olajbanyasz, fourth-place finishers in 2011-12 Eurochallenge play, stomped Falco-Szova Szombathely in game four of the Hungarian league championship. In quite an interesting decision, the ABA board reportedly voted unanimously to give Szolnok a spot in the regional league next season – thereby bringing a whole new meaning to the word “Adriatic.”
Iceland: In what must be Europe’s smallest league, Grindavik are the kings, taking the Icelandic title three games to one over Thor Thorl. Former Cleveland State University Viking (and former New York Jets signee!) J’Nathan Bullock contributed a massive 36-point, eight-rebound performance in the 78-72 game four victory.
Ireland: After stumbling through an 11-10 regular season, the UL Eagles took the Irish championship with a 70-56 victory over Dublin’s DCU Saints.
Israel: Perhaps the least suspenseful domestic basketball tournament in Europe ended in predictable fashion, with superpower Maccabi Tel Aviv defeating Maccabi Ashdod by 20 points in the final game.
Italy: So make it a fivepeat: Perpertual Serie A defending champions Montepaschi Siena took the Lega Basket championship over fellow Euroleague side Emporio Armani Milano, four games to one.
Latvia: VEF Riga repeated as champions in Latvia, once again taking out Eurochallenge team Ventspils with a convincing 100-70 win in game five of the league’s final series.
Lithuania: Perhaps Lietuvos Rytas never psychologically recovered after the close shave with Siauliai in the semifinal round. In the one-and-one format, L.Rytas actually managed to drop the first leg at home by nine points. While the Eurocuppers managed to survive game two, they were ultimately swept by rivals Žalgiris Kaunas in the finals, three games to none.
Luxembourg: This is Sparta! Led by 36-year-old former Larrie Smith’s 31 points and 16 rebounds in game two, Sparta got past former champions T71 Dudelange in overtime, 93-85.
Malta: After 16 games total, Athleta bagged its ninth Maltese title in its back-to-back championship campaign.
Norway: Froya Basket, the youngest BLNO entry having gotten promotion to the top division for 2009-10, won over the excellently-named Asker Aliens, 80-78, in the one-game championship there. Speaking of great monikers, Froya’s Miilah Kombat took the Final Four MVP award.
Poland: The PLK season ended in the same fashion as the previous eight seasons: Namely, with Asseco Prokom Gdynia holding Poland’s basketball championship title, as Trefl Spot managed to take the series to seven games but in the end fell 76-68 in the final match. But here’s a good “Top 10 plays” highlight clip from the playoffs, with lots of Donatas Motiejunas involved.
Portugal: Benfica got past Porto Ferpinta, winning the decisive game five in a bit of a brickfest. The 56-53 win in the final match saw Benfica shoot 30.9% overall, while Porto managed a slightly “better” 34.7%. Ah well, a title’s a title…
Romania: Ploiesti needed overtime to take game four and sweep the series over Timisoara. Ploiesti returns to top-dog status in Romania after its recent run of six Romanian titles was broken in 2011 by Cluj-Napoca.
Russia: CSKA Moscow rallied from its Euroleague disappointment to do what the club does best, i.e. take the PBL title – 2011-12 marks the 10th straight season as top dogs for the Red Army.
“As happened twice before in the series, CSKA were always in control of the game and were 14 points up in the first. That was cut by Khimki to five in the closing quarter, but CSKA put on another surge in the final minutes to run out winners.
“With their iconic front-man Andrey Kirilenko sidelined with an injury, there was a whole bunch of other stars in the Army Men’s squad to make sure his absence would not cost dearly. The likes of Aleksey Shved, Viktor Khryapa, Nenad Krstic, Milos Teodosic and Jamon Gordon finished the game with double digits on their account.
“The pains of Vitaly Fridzon (20 points) and Kresimir Loncar (17) were far not enough for the reigning Eurocup holders to bite into the series.
“So CSKA claimed an incredible 19th title in 21 seasons and sugared the end of a season in which, Kirilenko believes, the team had its strongest squad in the recent years.
“’This year the squad was exceptional. There were at least three players in each position who could become leaders in every Russian team,’ he noted after the final game.”
“Asked about his future plans AK-47 said there are two options for him – staying in the Russian team or to moving back to the NBA, with each of the possibilities regarded as 50-50.”
Serbia: After losing at Hala Pionir in game three, Partizan managed to outlast Crvena Zvezda/Red Star Belgrade in game four, 86-82, to take its incredible 11th championship.
Slovakia: Prievidza took its first national title in 17 years in Slovakia, winning over Komarno>; both teams had gone 22-10 and were tied atop the regular-season standings.
Slovenia: KK Krka took its third straight Slovenian league title, beating Union Olimpija three games to one in the final set; this begs the question of why Krka has yet to ascend to Euroleague play, doesn’t it?
Spain: FC Barcelona were crowned Liga Endesa champions after winning the fifth game in the final series, 73-69, over Real Madrid. In yet another cliffhanger, Los Blancos “died with their boots on”, while the Blaugrana were led by Pete Mickeal (17 points, nine rebounds, 23 performance index rating), Frán Vazquez (16 points, eight boards, four blocked shots) and prospective San Antonio Spur/series MVP Erazem Lorbek (10 points, six rebounds).
Sweden: The top two teams played for the Basketligan crown in April, with Norrkoping Dolphins taking out Sodertalje Kings, four games to two.
Switzerland: And another threepeat! Lugano Tigers again won the LNA championship with a 92-81 victory over the Geneve Lions in the decisive game five of the title series there.
Turkey: The Beşiktaş Eagles couldn’t quite pull off the upset against Anadolu Efes last Friday night, losing 84-82 in game five of the TBL championship series. Up 3-2, Beşiktaş hosts the Euroleague side on Monday night.
Ukraine: The Ukrainian championship was taken by Budivelnik, who beat Ferro in the final match of the year, 82-70. Leading them was Suad Sehovic with 23 points and seven rebounds.
United Kingdom: Finally, BallinEurope sends (belated) congratulations out to the Newcastle Eagles. The Eagles bested Leicester Riders in the final match, 71-62, to complete the clean sweep of BBL titles and buoy hopes that perhaps Newcastle will be joining a pan-European competition in 2012-13.