'It won't last forever': Masterclass marked with an act we won't see for centuries

Edvinas Jablonskis
Daily Editor
2022-05-09 06:39
Credit: FIBA

At halftime, BAXI Manresa were leading 50-49 against Lenovo Tenerife, and it looked like that Basketball Champions League final will go back and forth until the very end.

However, Tenerife, with Marcelinho Huertas in front, had other ideas.

Tenerife opened the third quarter with a 14-4 run and gained a 9-point lead after Sasu Salin's 3-pointer. Huertas made three assists during that stretch.

Player of the Game
Marcelinho  Huertas
Marcelinho Huertas
Points 13
Accuracy 6-10
Rebounds 3
Assists 14

After Giorgi Shermadini committed an unsportsmanlike foul, Manresa managed to cut their deficit to 7 points, but once again, the 38-year-old showed a moment of brilliance.

First, he made a mid-range jumper. Moments later, he assisted Aaron Doornekamp's 3-pointer. At the end of the third quarter, the Brazilian point guard dished another assist to Kyle Wiltjer, who beat the buzzer and increased Tenerife's lead to 15 points (82-67).

By that time, Huertas already had a double-double.

The final possession was a cherry on top of the brilliant quarter for Tenerife, in which they scored 33 points. Huertas was directly involved in 18 of them.

Those 10 glorious game-changing minutes became a reason why Lenovo Tenerife lifted the championship trophy.

The punch was so strong that even thousands of Manresa fans inside the Bilbao arena couldn't bring their team back into the game.

The Basketball Champions League title returns to Tenerife after a 5-year break when they won its first trophy in the inaugural season in 2016-17.

Meanwhile, Huertas deservedly claimed Final 4 MVP honors. He finished the final game with 13 points (6/10 2PT, 1/2 FT), 14 assists, 3 rebounds, and 22 EFF.

The Brazilian point guard became the first player to tally 10+ assists in the BCL final. He also became the second player to register a double-double in the BCL final after Gediminas Orelik in 2017.

Throughout both Final 4 games, he averaged 15.0 points, 11.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 21.0 EFF.

However, for Huertas himself, all the personal numbers and accolades didn't mean as much as the title.

"First of all, I'm just happy that we became the champions," Huertas said after being showered by his teammates in the press conference. "Being MVP doesn't really matter. This is a team sport, and we worked together to have one goal, which is to win."

"Any of our players could have been MVP. We did a tremendous job, we were loyal to our game plan. They had a very good first half, hitting very tough shots. We remained calm and played the way we prepared.

In the second half, defensively, we did things very well, especially in iso situations. On offense, we were able to find what we wanted and played our game. We should be proud of ourselves," he added.

It's no secret that Huertas is basically head coach Txus Vidorreta's right hand on the floor, who seems to solve all the problems once his help is needed.

"It's our second final together, and it's our second win after winning FIBA Intercontinental Cup," Vidorreta said. "It's been only 2 years since we won the first title, I thought it was way back in the past, but here we are winning the BCL."

"It was the reason why we signed Marcelinho. The idea that together we could win titles here in Bilbao was impossible. Finally, we did it in Tenerife. It's very easy to coach this team with Marci and Bruno.

I'm thinking about the near future because without them, I will need to think more. Now, they are thinking on the court, and all I need to decide about the starters and rotations – things I usually do well," added Vidorreta.

Just like Huertas, Vidorreta gave credit to all of his players. And all this credit isn't without reason. We can talk about the veteran presence of Shermadini and Bruno Fitipaldo or Wiltjer, who gave a massive boost from the bench.

But there was another guy who stepped in the most important game of the season- Sasu Salin.

After scoring only 6 points in 2/8 shooting in the semifinal against Hapoel Holon, the Finnish guard accumulated 18 points (3/3 2PT, 4/8 3PT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 20 EFF.

"Yeah! Good, because I missed a couple in the semifinal," Salin said with a smile after being told that last night he reminded everyone that he's a real shooter. "I had to make some shots because I lead in made 3-pointers."

As expected, Salin also dedicated warm words to Huertas, admitting that the Brazilian guard still amazes him after all those years.

"Amazing," Salin said on Huertas' performance. "I've been playing with him for the third season. I've been watching this magic going on pretty much every day. It's something you don't see."

"Everybody who watched him now should have enjoyed it because it won't last forever. He is a hell of a player and probably the best point guard I ever played with," added Salin.

Going back to that 3rd quarter, it was not an only brilliant offense that allowed Tenerife to build a significant lead.

Throughout the first two quarters, Manresa scored 50 points, shooting 12/24 from the 2-point zone and 7/16 from three.

However, after the halftime, the Catalans were held to 17 points, making only one 3-pointer out of 7 attempts.

Moreover, apart from Chima Moneke, Dani Perez was causing many problems, scoring 10 points in the first half. He finished the game with 12 points. His only 2 points in the second half came in the middle of the fourth quarter after he made both of his free throws.

"We changed the defense on Perez," Vidorreta highlighted the main difference in the defensive approach. "He did a very good job during the first half. We decided to avoid going under the screen and to deny [his drives from the] left every time."

"They had more problems finding advantages. The third quarter was amazing. We are happy with the win but especially with how we did it," he added.

Finally, there was a moment of brilliance that took place after the game. During the title ceremony, 6.000 Manresa's fans joined Tenerife supporters and chanted 'Tenerife' for a couple of minutes.

As a colleague, Thanasis Asproulias noted, in Greece, such an act will probably not be seen for centuries. No wonder both coaches were also impressed.

"This is amazing," Vidorreta said. "This is the final between big but at the same time small teams. We both know the difficulty of being here. The atmosphere here was great."

"During the game, absolutely supportive. Their support at the end of the game and waiting to see the celebration of the opponent is something I will never forget," he added.

"This is a humble club with a great history," Manresa's head coach Pedro Martinez said. "Today is a part of the history. We believe that not everything is either a win or a loss. For sure, we work every day for victories, but when we lose, we accept it."

"Now we are waiting to go to practice and look for the next goal, next game, next challenge that we have. It's a part of our club and our mentality. I'm very proud of our supporters who came here and other fans who help us when we play at home," concluded Martinez.

That sums up the Basketball Champions League Final 4. Great stories, hard-fought battles, and terrific performances, which were complemented with amazing support. Adiós, Bilbao!


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