Pini Gershon spoke all season about his goal – winning the Euroleague title for the third year in a row. After three seasons in which he beat all the leading European coaches and after the brilliant performance of his team in the semi finsl gere, he was only 40 minutes away from fulfilling his dream.
But in spite of the support from 10,000 Yellow fans at the Sazka Arena, Gershon & Maccabi failed to win. This mainly because of the only coach that Gershon has never beaten – Ettore Messina, .who has now a 3-0 over Gershon & a 9-0 record vs Maccabi.
Messina studied carefully the Maccabi game plan and his players executed his moves with coolness & boldness playing a very tight defense cuasing Maccabi 20 turn overs
much above their average (CSKA had only 7 TO). The Messina`s defense resulted in 16 steals (Maccabi 6) and enabled Maccabi only 8 assists.
Everything looked promising when Maccabi opened a 7-0 lead. But after a tine oit by Messina, his players returned in a different mood to make it 7-7.and at the end of the opening quarter scores were even (18-18).. Parker & Vujcic were still scoreless.
The Euroleague`s MVP scored his first points an made it 20-20 and added an ibncredible three pointer (25-22). But CSKA stuck to their game, ran 13-0 and led 35-25. A three pointer by Sharp and and two more points by Burstein mad the score at half time CSKA 35, Maccabi 30.
The Russians opened the third period with 5 successive points and took a 42031 lead. But Maccabi was not done. A three pointer by Burstein made it 44-36. Burstein drove to the basket but was called for an offensive foul that never was. Kirk Penney was called in and immediatly connected with a three. Jamie Arnold, one of Maccabi`s best players on the night. added another three. Two minutes before the end of period Vujcic scored his first points from the line and added a basket to make the croe 46-46. Vujcuic had a bad miss and Solomon committed one of his 5 turnovers and the period ended on 49-48 for CSKA
Theodoros Papaloukas, the game`s MVP, swept his tea, to 55-48. But 5 points by Solomon and a Parker`s three, gave Maccabi a 58-56 lead with six minutes to go. Back came Smodis & Langdon with three pointers and the score went to 66-59 &
71-63.and Maccabi`s three peat dream looked over. Desperate three pointers by Arnold & Solomon gave some slim hopes (71-69 with 6 seconds from time). But another turn over by the holders ended with Langdon 2 FT which gave CSKA a 73-69 win and their first Euroleague title since 1971.
In general Maccabi shot pretty well with 48% for three & 86% in FT. They also dominated the rebounds (38-29), mainly due to Maceo Baston, who pulled down 15 rbds & made 2 bsts.
A poor game for Nikoa Vujcic with only 4 pts (1-6 FG), 4 TO and 5 rbds. Even Parker did not shine with 10 pts in 44% FG` 5 rbds & 3 TO. Will Solomon was the game`s top scorer with 20 in 57%FG, s assists but 5 TO.
Maccabi`s top player was Jamie Arnold with 14 pts in 67% FG & 100% FT plus 4 rbds & 1 bst. Tal Burstein also had a good game with 9 pts in 60% FG, 7 rbds 8 2 asts.
Other Maccabi scorers: Baston 6, Sharp 3, Penney 3 .Sharon Shason played but did not score.
Papaloukas was by far the best player of the final with 18 pts (62% FG, 75%v FT),
7 asts, 3 rbds & 2 stls. Other CSKA scorers: Vanterpool 16, Smodis 12 & 8 rbds, Langdon 11, Savrasenko 10 pts, 4 rbds & 3 bsts. Holden 6 pts.
CSKA captain, Sergei Panov lifted the Cup and celebrated with his team mates. Derrick Sharp was handed the trophy for second place.
TAU Ceramica Vitoria secured third place with a 87-82 over Winterthur Barcelona.
See you next year in Athens.