They overcame an almighty scare plus needed overtime but Fenerbahce is in the Euroleague championship game on Sunday.
Trailing 71-67 with 1:47 left, Fenerbahce came back to force overtime and eventually got the better of Laboral Kutxa 88-77 in an epic Euroleague semi-final in Berlin on Friday night.
Fenerbahce will now go on to meet CSKA Moscow in Sunday’s finale. It will pit two coaches that spent 13 years working together at Panathinaikos as Zeljko Obradovic faces off against his student Dimitris Itoudis of CSKA Moscow.
That iconic showdown though so nearly got evaporated as Darius Adams had the chance to win it for Laboral Kutxa in the dying seconds, but his stepback jumper was off left and despite a scramble for the loose ball, where a foul was called with 0.6 seconds left, the game went to overtime.
From there, Fenerbahce got their second wind and systemically out-hustled their Liga Endesa opponents who couldn’t get a shot to fall under intense defensive pressure.
Bogdan Bogdanovic hit nine of his team-high 18 points in the extra period to lead Fenerbahce to the title game.
“It was incredible,” said Bogdanovic. “Starting with me, we missed a lot of three-point shots. On the other hand, they hit amazing shots, off the glass, in the last seconds. But, in the end of regulation, we were lucky enough to force overtime. The rest is history.”
Luigi Datome added 15 points and seven rebounds with big guys Ekpe Udoh and Jan Vesely amassing 14 each.
“Thank you to my players for everything they did and also to our people,” Obradovic said. “They know they are a very important part of what we do and it’s very important for this club that we reached the final.
“We are a small United Nations at Fenerbahce. We wrote ‘One more game’ on the wall in all the languages of the team. But we want to do something else.”
Ioannis Bourousis was outstanding but just fell short for Baskonia with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The energy generated by the sea of yellow and blue inside the Mercedes Benz Arena wore off on the players in the opening minutes, as strong defence, mixed with solid execution led to an early 13-0 lead before Adam Hanga opened Laboral Kutxa’s account with a simple drive to the baseline.
Fenerbahce though were relentless in the first quarter and deservedly took a 23-15 lead heading into the second quarter.
However, Baskonia were not in Berlin to make up the numbers and gradually clawed their way back into proceedings until Fenerbahce once again stepped up a gear and nice link-up play between Pero Antic and Vesely resulted in the latter throwing it down to give the Turkish side a 28-22 lead.
Cue the noise.
But despite the momentum, Laboral Kutxa refused to back away and once more got themselves back into contention through solid execution both inside and out. Darius Adams in particular was making it happen at both ends and his score ensured that Baskonia went into the half-time break trailing 41-40. A great fightback from how they began.
And the fightback was complete within the first possessions of the third quarter when Hanga scored to give Laboral Kutxa a 42-41 – a lead that was quickly wiped with a three-pointer from Datome.
The two teams went back-and-forth in an exciting tug-of-war until Bourousis drained a three-pointer off the backboard on the buzzer to give the Liga Endesa side a narrow 57-55 lead heading into quarter number four.
For a period, Laboral Kutxa looked good value for their lead, even going as far as silencing the near 7,500 Fenerbahce fans inside the arena. But the Turkish side rallied, a Datome three followed by a lay-up from Kostas Sloukas tied the game at 72-72, setting the game up for the exciting overtime session.