Banca Civica defeated Unicaja Malaga 77-65 but let a 17 point fourth quarter lead slip to 4 before finally icing the Copa del Rey quarter final at Palau Sant Jordi.
Banca Civica Sevilla started the brighter, on an 8-2 run, until a Kristaps Valters three broke the run. Unicaja settled down and would have been delightred to see Darden looking healthy, exploding to the rim for a jam and skying for rebounds.
The second quarter saw Unicaja mix in their reserves, who got outhustled and outworked by a hungrier looking Banca Civica team. Jorge Garbajosa tried to get things going with two nice drives to the hoop, but Fitch and Rowland’s passing was not crisp and Sevilla outworked them on the boards, also taking advantage of sloppy turnovers to create runout opportunities.
In the first quarter, Earl Calloway found a lane to the rim as wide as the Avinguda Diagonal, and it was still open for Tomas Satoransky in the second. The Czech played smart, aggressive basketball, helping his team to a 36-28 halftime lead. Banca Civica grabbed 9 offensive boards before halftime, symptomatic of the timid manner in which Unicaja played.
Their guards failed to create opportunities to score and when they went inside, Sevilla fiercely protected the rim. Luke Zoric went hard to the rim in transition but a combination of Calloway and Satoransky put him on the floor – two smaller guys going up against a big and putting their body on the line summed up the way in which Sevilla set their stall out in the first half.
Jorge Garbajosa sank a four point play early in the third, but Banca Civica continued the momentum they built in the first half, Calloway and Tepic finishing strong on the break after more turnovers from Unicaja. Freeland scored his first two of the game from the line after being fouled on a drive. Defensively he was very strong, rebounding the ball and challenging shots. It must be frustrating to grab a rebound, outlet quickly, beat everyone down the floor only to see the ball squirt away out of bounds, but he needs to be more assertive in dominating the game like he so often has.
Banca Civia had continued to outwork their opponents, who still didn’t appear to have much of a coherent gameplan. Late in the third, Txemi Urtasun sank a three and Earl Calloway dashed in for another layup to maintain Banca Civica’s 14 point lead going into the final period.
Luka Bogdanovic opened the fourth quarter with a three to push the lead to 17 and the game looked all but done. His jumpshot was hot, and he finished with 13 points, including three triples. Earl Calloway continued to get to the rim with ease, but Unicaja’s perimeter defense was halfhearted at best.
Early in the fourth period, as the numerous Baskonia fans rocked the arena with their ‘Fuenla’ chant anticipating the next game, everything changed. Suddenly, Unicaja started clicking and embarked on a 10-0 run to force their way back into a game which looked dead only moments earlier.
Valters hit a three, Freeland beasted on the offensive glass, refusing to give in easily, grabbing the board and going back up strong. He layed in a lob on the break, Banca Civica went cold. Valters dashed in for an open layup, the lead was only 4 points.
Davis posted up Freeland to give Sevilla a touch of breathing room and Fitch couldn’t quite finish a tough layin on the drive. Unicaja called timeout with 1:41 down 6 points and still with a hope of pulling of an almighty comeback. Freeland jammed a putback off Valter’s msised three and the deficit was back to four. Tepic sank a baseline jumper to put it back to 6, the definition of a backbreaker. Freeland drew Calloway into a a mismatch on the switch, but Darden couldn’t find him, missed a layin and as Urtasun sank a pair at the other end, the dramatic ending dissolved.
Sevilla wobbled in the fourth, but never panicked. Urtasun, Davis and Tepic came through when it mattered, and a game that was meandering to a dead end came alive, but Unicaja must wonder what may have happened if they had played for a full forty minutes.