Anadolu Efes secured back-to-back EuroLeague titles with a nail-biting 58-57 win over Real Madrid in Belgrade.
The competition’s bottom side in 2018, the Istanbul outfit recovered to reach the final a year later and become tog dogs for two straight seasons.
Last season’s EuroLeague Final Four MVP, Vasilije Micic paced the winners with 23 points.
“I am honestly very speechless because four years ago I played here and I won third place and I was short,” Micic said.
“But this time we won the title, and I want to congratulate my teammates, congrats to Real Madrid for an amazing game and thank you once again.
“This [MVP award] feels amazing. It will stay forever with me, it will be marked on my heart until I play basketball and afterwards. Nothing is possible without my teammates – four amazing years together, two titles.
“The team result is more important. Everybody knows that tonight will be very hot all over Belgrade, I’m going to take all my team together and we’re going to celebrate like never before.”
Tibor Pleiss and Shane Larkin added 19 and 10 points, respectively.
And it was Pleiss who scored the decisive bucket for the Turkish side, as he made up for Micic’s missed layup with a tip-in for a 58-55 advantage with 1:05 remaining.
Sergio Llull would reply, but Real Madrid – who last won the EuroLeague title in 2018, in Belgrade – were unable to get another score.
Anadolu Efes’ glory now begs the question of what next ahead of next season? Many of its current players are on expiring deals, including Shane Larkin, Bryant Dunston, Chris Singleton and Pleiss. So who knows what will be of the champions next season.
But for now … it’s party time.
“It’s incredible,” Pleiss commented.
“As a kid, I always looked up to the two teams that played the Final Four and now I’ve won it back to back, it’s incredible. I’m full of emotions, I’m tired, but I’m so happy it’s incredible, I have no words for it.”
Walter Tavares was the only player for Real in double digits, dropping 14 points along with 11 rebounds.
“Of course I’m happy the way we played, congratulations to Efes for the win, it was a great final,” Madrid coach Pablo Laso said.
“Everybody fighting for every ball. We were missing some open shots that we didn’t score, and missing those baskets at the end.
“On a do or die, probably on my mind is gonna be the last play: should we foul, shouldn’t we foul? We didn’t get the rebound. I think if we had got the rebound we could have had a last shot, but we couldn’t get a clean rebound…well, congratulations Efes, that’s it.”