Laprovittola delivered a gem of a game as Badalona controlled the derby to all but guarantee their spot in the ACB playoffs. Emmet Ryan fluked his way into picking the most important game in Pavello Olimpic in years for this trip and took it all in
Derby day, or Derbi day rather, between 8th and 9th in the race for the ACB playoffs. Just 64km separate Manresa, to the northwest of Barcelona, and Badalona, a northeastern suburb. As soon as they were let into their seats in the upper tier, the Manresa fans filed in wearing read and chanting. This was a big deal.
Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire. This one was hot from the off as the whistles and cheers rained down. Back to back steals at mid-court, first by Nico Laprovittola and then Albert Ventura, gave Badalona their first lead and brought out the roars of Penya! Penya!* Everything was being fought for like it was the final seconds of a one-possession game and we’d barely got going.
*The term basically means a community gathering spot, this is where the people of Badalona come together and this is what they are.
Laprovittola was dancing. Though the lane and in to tie things up at 12-12. The noise wasn’t stopping, just breaking to give him some love, and then back to bang, bang, bang, Forca Penya, and whatever the Manresa posse in the gods were shouting. Conor Morgan with the long two and the lead was back.
From the outside, you’d help but notice the striking Brutalist architecture of the Pavelló Olímpic. It’s a futuristic idea from times past. From above, the shape is reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon. The capacity of 12,500 is hard to belive inside, even when you account for the tarping. It looks smaller, a lot smaller. That leads to an intimate feel, the type you’d expect at a big youth game maybe or a smaller league, a much smaller league, than the ACB, but the bodies here are hoops fans.
The multi-sports nature of European clubs, well continental Europe, means that hoops fans are often fans of the overall club first, football second, and then what comes. There’s no doubt of that with Barcelona just up the road. Here though, it’s a hoops haven. They know they will always be the little brother in the city but they can and will hang with them when they can. They got an important win over the Blaugrana a couple of weeks before this one. They have the history running through their veins, along with Real Madrid and Estudiantes, they are one of only three clubs to have always played in the top flight.
A three from Morgan and the Canadian pushed Badalona into the largest lead of the day so far, albeit only by 5. The kids came on to run and shoot during the timeout. They stay parked in a corner all game long to run out and get their shots in whenever they get a chance.
One missed free for Manresa got the reaction of a Badalona game winner. The crowd got a bad angle of a sweet tip by Marcos Delia but after 10 minutes the lead was 21-15. Every breath mattered but the applause was loud for a youth team that had won the Spanish junior championship being introduced mid-court. Developing cracking youth teams is expected here, they’ve done some big stuff with their kids over the years.
For our analysis series The Ballin After, post-game interviews, and more, subscribe to BallinEurope’s YouTube channel
The Gody man. He passes the ball so hard it must hurt the hands of the dude getting it. Hindsight is 20/20, but remembering watching him with Notre Dame it’s mad I didn’t see him as an obvious fit for the ACB. The talent level is right and so is the style of game. He’s big but not a giant, strong but smart with it, unathletic but economical with his movement, and just a freaking machine too. The ball was going wherever 81 wanted it from almost a point 5 role. Then came the slam in the open court, oddly his first score of the game but his bashing wasn’t just for buckets.
Manresa has its own extraordinary history. The miracle of Manresa in 1998 is extraordinary for the sport here. With the 6th seed, and the effective guarantee of no home court advantage at any point in the playoffs, they went and won the lot. Estudiantes, the 3 seed, went down in the first round. Then the 2 seed, Real Madrid, fell in the semi-finals, before they beat 1 seed Baskonia in the finals to take their maiden and, for now, lone ACB championship.
It didn’t last, within two seasons they’d be relegated. It would take a couple of years to return to the top flight and a second relegation to LEB Oro would follow in 2006. That drop would last just a year but in 2017 they’d go down again. This is their first year back in the top flight and a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since that miraculous 1998 summer.
Tomislav Zubcic knew how to take the wind out of the crowd. For the second time today, he made one from deep just as Badalona had a run going. Derby day baby, nothing is given up easy. Nenad ‘Neno’ Dimitrijevic had a youthful loss of his handle but recovered fast to fling it out for another Morgan three and the train was moving again. Neno to Delia, nowhere for the big man to go but he eventually shuffled around to find his shot, another score. Laprovittola briefly made it double digits but Badalona would have to settle for a 44-36 lead at the break.
BallinEurope now has merch, like actual merch, t-shirts, phone covers, and even pillows. Check it all out on our RedBubble page.
The home side got their double digit lead back early in the third. The vibe had tempered a bit, it was still wild but not the life or death on every play that rocked the first half. Manresa were hanging around but you just felt like there was a chance here for Badalona to break away. That was the only way you could notice the absence of Shawn Dawson, the Israeli has that type of extra energy to bust a game open. Broadly speaking however this was exactly what Badalona would have done even with him them. The Gody and Marko Todorovic making their length count while everybody else used them to create space. Nobel Boungou-Colo from deep and the lead went to 11 for the first time on the day midway through the quarter.
There was no Shawn Dawson for this one but he’s committed to the club going forward. His season was ended months ago with injury but the club has persevered in the race for the playoffs without him. They got their day out in the Copa del Rey too. After a few less than stellar years, having missed the playoffs the last three seasons and flirted with relegation a year ago, there’s a feeling this club is headed back in the right direction.
There’s talk of them going to the Basketball Champions League next season, no small feat considering their recent history. Badalona were there 2 years ago but went out in the qualifying rounds. Their previous sojourn was 7 years previous. The chance to bring something more back to this part of town would be no small deal. Making the playoffs would all but lock that up.
Todorovic inside, gets the and-1, makes it, and finally there was some breathing room developing. A travel call on Gabriel Lundberg got a big cheer, the chance was there now for Penya. Thad McFadden took it from deep. Now the atmosphere was one of expectation. Oooh rang around as another three ball from McFadden just rimmed out. Laprovittola slowed it down for the final possesion of the frame. He got it to Harangody in the corner but his buzzer shot was just off. No matter, the lead was 66-52 with 10 minutes to play and Badalona fans could taste the playoffs.
Neno was falling out of bounds but he saw Harangody. Quick pass, inside from the big guy. Make and foul drawn. With the free dropping, the lead was now 20. The second half required more from Badalona to prove they had been worth their half-time lead and they were delivering when it counted.
This was a complete fluke. The game was marked on my docket a few months ahead of time, just getting to see another game here was all that mattered. That it meant so much, a derby with massive playoff implications, was such a bonus. The big clubs with flash budgets are nice but they come with conditions attached. Sometimes the fans just don’t care, blowouts are frequent, and there’s that touch of polish that you don’t get somewhere like this.
A 30 year old arena that felt every bit of it. A start before lunchtime local, not close to full stands but with those here fully invested in this being the thing that mattered to them. That raw energy is what you need from a game on the continent. The hope that comes with following a middling side that you know can’t hope for consistent glory. The deck is stacked way too high against them but, as Badalona and Manresa both learned, there are times when you can make all the pain worth it.
Manresa were broken. The sloppy fouls started to come as the offensive energy dropped. They hung around for so long but when Badalona finally broke for home there was no answer. The bulk of the fourth quarter was a procession, the wave broke out to really show how dialled down the crowd was, with the only question being whether we’d get to see youngster Arturs Zagars get a decent spell in garbage time. The Latvian is in the top 5 or 6 of his year in Europe and this is his first year of eligibility. Even with the youth focus of Badalona, it’s hard for him to get minutes when it matters.
There was worse news for the visitors as Erik Murphy had to be carried off injured, a further blow to their playoff hopes that all but evaporated with this loss. The kids got another run on the floor late in the fourth. With them all wearing home Badalona jerseys, it was hard to work out who was exactly meant to be guarding who and the lines on the floor were liberally ignored.
Finally Zagars got on with just under two minutes to play, replacing Laprovittola who was warmly received. That he is still bulking out was obvious, he looked like he had the frame of a child out there. He got a few touches running the offence but nothing to talk about. The game was long in the books by the time he’d gotten out there.
Olé olé rang out as the clock hit zero. Victory for Badalona, and Penya will almost certainly be in the post-season now. The doors that alone might open are something else. This was a really important win.
To keep up to date with everything on BiE, like BallinEurope on Facebook