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FIBA EuroCup Final Four
#1
The Final Four starts tomorrow in Limassol, Cyprus



18/04/2008:



[url="http://http"]Tartu Rock vs Barons MLT[/url] @ 17:30



[url="http://http"]Dexia Mons-Hainaut vs AE Limassol[/url] @ 20:00



20/04/2008:



3rd place winner @ 17:30

Final @ 20:00
Respect and thanks for everything:

Alvertis, Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Radja, Wilkins, Vrankovic, Fotsis, Rebraca, Kattash, Gentile, Koch, Middleton, Kutluay, Rogers, Papadopoulos, Becirovic, Tomasevic, Siskauskas, Pekovic, Lakovic, Vujanic, Chatzivrettas, Maljkovic, Spanoulis and many more to follow in the near future.
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#2
From fibaeurope.com



Tartu Rock have lost twice to EuroCup Final Four opponents Barons Riga this season, but that may be a good thing according to the Estonian club's exciting playmaker George Tsintsadze.



The 1.92m Georgia international, who has averaged almost 15 points per game this season in the EuroCup to lead his team, said: "Barons have a really good team, and it will be hard for us to win.

Quote:"But it's better for us this way because no one is expecting us to win."

What do Tartu have to do to be successful?

Quote:"We just have to score more points and play better defense,"

Tartu center Brian Cusworth believes his team can spring the upset.

Quote:"We're bringing our Cinderella shoes,"
Respect and thanks for everything:

Alvertis, Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Radja, Wilkins, Vrankovic, Fotsis, Rebraca, Kattash, Gentile, Koch, Middleton, Kutluay, Rogers, Papadopoulos, Becirovic, Tomasevic, Siskauskas, Pekovic, Lakovic, Vujanic, Chatzivrettas, Maljkovic, Spanoulis and many more to follow in the near future.
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#3
From fibaeurope.com



Proteas EKA AEL have always had the glitz and glamour as the host team for the EuroCup All-Star Game, but now the club has a chance to make its mark as champions.



The Cyprus outfit will host the competition's prestigious Final Four from April 18-20 and take on Belgian outfit Dexia Mons-Hainaut in one semi-final.



Tartu Rock faces Barons Riga in the other semi.



The Limassol club was so desperate to stage the climax of the tournament that the wheels were already in motion of bidding for it before Proteas had even won their quarter-final showdown with Khimik.



But really, winning a European title was on the minds of the players before the opening tip of the season.



It was, for example, why former club scoring machine Duane Woodward decided to return from Italy in the summer.

Quote:"That was the main reason why I came back, to get this far," Woodward said. "That was our goal."

Quote:"We came here for that,"

French sharpshooter Karim Souchu added.

Quote:"We've got a great group of players. We're excited about it. It was a long, tough road, but we made it."

Tough road, indeed!



The club, when it wasn't playing well at the beginning of the campaign, decided to part with popular Ukrainian coach Igors Miglinieks and replace him with American Charles Barton.



Captain Milutin Aleksic spoke candidly about the change in February, once Barton had been in the job for a while.

Quote:"Charles, for me, was a big surprise"

Aleksic said.

Quote:"I never had a chance to work with an American coach. It was a strange philosophy, how he talks to players, and I was wondering what it would be like.



"Now I know his philosophy and style. I think he helped all of us achieve targets for this season but I also liked our former coach Igors Miglinieks. He was good, too."

The basketball gods then showed they have a sense of humor.



After Miglinieks landed a new job at another EuroCup side, Spartak St. Petersburg, Spartak and Proteas wound up together in Group C of the Qualifying Round.



Proteas AEL fell behind early in the first game at Spartak but hit back for an 81-77 win and then beat them a second time, 72-71 back in Limassol.



That's right, a team from tiny Cyprus beat Spartak of the rich Russian Superleague and Proteas AEL ended up finishing top of the group with five wins and just one defeat.



If there were any doubts about their ability to win the championship, those two triumphs over Spartak, some of the players said, gave them the self belief that they are good enough to go all the way.



And when Limassol was awarded the Final Four, thus giving Proteas AEL home-court advantage, the fans and club management positively jumped for joy.

Quote:"They are special,"


Aleksic said of the fans.

Quote:"This is a very hard place to play. Just look at the good teams we haven't lost to here. (Virtus) Bologna, Estudiantes, Azovmash, (Asvel) Villeurbanne - a lot came last year and lost. That means we have very big home advantage."

Aleksic, a Serbian, is a huge crowd favourite and was a starter for Europe at the All Star Event who leads the club in scoring at almost 18 points per game, and rebounding at 7.3.



Woodward is second in the scoring charts at 13.5 and Souchu third at 11.



Barton also gets great production out of Ryan Randle, a 2.06m center who often plays bigger than Texas - the American state he was born in almost 27 years ago.



In 10 EuroCup games with Proteas AEL, he has averaged 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds.



Frenchman Maxime Zianveni has also been a big producer by scoring 9.2 points per game. He had a season-high 19 in the Game Two triumph over Khimik that clinched a place in the Final Four.

Quote:"It's wide open,"
Woodward said.

Quote:"I can't say there is any team in particular that stands out. But you better look at us, we finished first in our group and I think we have a lot of time to prepare."
Respect and thanks for everything:

Alvertis, Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Radja, Wilkins, Vrankovic, Fotsis, Rebraca, Kattash, Gentile, Koch, Middleton, Kutluay, Rogers, Papadopoulos, Becirovic, Tomasevic, Siskauskas, Pekovic, Lakovic, Vujanic, Chatzivrettas, Maljkovic, Spanoulis and many more to follow in the near future.
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#4
From fibaeurope.com



Barons Riga made it to the EuroCup Final Four but it was, most of the club's fans would say, more exciting than it should have been.



A young KK Zagreb team pushed Barons to the limit in their quarter-final tie but the Riga team edged a 96-91 encounter in the decider to reach the Promised Land.



That's right, 96 points!



But believe it or not, Barons' scoring average in the EuroCup of 78.3 points is the lowest of all the teams taking part. That includes Final Four opponents Tartu Rock, who will arrive in Limassol with an average of 79.9.



The Final Four is where Barons coach Karlis Muiznieks would have expected his team to be, though, judging from the talent in his side.



The signature players in this team are his towering 2.04m forward Demetrius Alexander, the squad's leading scorer (15.7pts avg) and rebounder (8.1), along with guards Armands Skele and Giedrus Gustas.



St Louis native Alexander, a member of the Rest of the World team at the EuroCup All Star Game, has quite a pedigree.



Everyone suspected he was going to have a solid pro career back in 1994, when he was voted Missouri High School Player of the year.



He has played for numerous clubs, with his last stop before Riga in Spain's powerful ACB with Sevilla's Cajasol.



Five times this season, Alexander had double-doubles in points and rebounds - number one in the EuroCup.



Skele, the explosive guard who played for Muiznieks at last year's EuroBasket with Latvia's national team, averaged 14.8 points in the EuroCup while Gustas, a starter for Lithuania at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, scored a clip of 14.5.



Barons beat Tartu Rock in their encounters in the Baltic League this season and would seem to have the edge purely on that basis.



But just how good Barons are, no one really knows.



They won their Qualifying Round Group on a second tie-break with Khimik.



Each team won a game against the other by six points, and it was a superior points differential in all of their contests in the pool which in the end lifted Barons to first place.
Respect and thanks for everything:

Alvertis, Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Radja, Wilkins, Vrankovic, Fotsis, Rebraca, Kattash, Gentile, Koch, Middleton, Kutluay, Rogers, Papadopoulos, Becirovic, Tomasevic, Siskauskas, Pekovic, Lakovic, Vujanic, Chatzivrettas, Maljkovic, Spanoulis and many more to follow in the near future.
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#5
From fibaeurope.com



Dexia Mons-Hainaut sure have a flair for the dramatic.



At every turn in the EuroCup, it seems, they are doing something that keeps the fans of the Belgian club on the edge of their seats.



In one pivotal game this season, a January 22 clash at Cherkaski Mavpy, Chris Finch's team travelled to Ukraine trying to win but hoping not to lose by five points or more since that would give them the edge in a potential tie-breaker for a place in the quarter-finals.



Just 31 seconds from the end, Mavpy took a 76-70 advantage.



But with 12 ticks on the clock, Travis Conlan fed Ben Ebong and his lay-up cut the deficit to 76-72.



Mavpy missed a three-pointer before the final buzzer.



So despite the four-point defeat, they sealed a place in the Quarter-Final Round with a game still to play.

Quote:"It felt like a win"


said Finch says, looking back.

Quote:"But also, at the time, we weren't really playing that well. We were in a run of bad games, but in an odd way, that loss or the way we won it (the tie), helped us get back on track."



If that wasn't enough for Mons' fans to chew off all of their fingernails, then the showdown with Samara was.



Finch's men, who finished top of their Qualifying Round group, had home-court advantage in the best-of-three series and won the opener 92-66.



In Samara, it was a different story. They looked to be headed for defeat.



The Russians had led by as many as seven points in the game and were clinging to an 86-84 lead with the final seconds running off the clock.



That's when Nate Reinking, the slick, left-handed Great Britain international point guard, drilled a three-ball as time expired to give Dexia the win.



For his trouble, Reinking was mobbed by team-mates as Mons clinched a 2-0 sweep and earned a trip to a Final Four for the first time in club history.



Before they'd even booked a place in Limassol, where they will take on hosts Proteas EKA AEL in one semi-final, Mons coach Finch had called this one of the most thrilling campaigns that he'd ever been involved with as a player or a coach.

Quote:"We can be streaky"

he said.

Quote:"We like to play in transition; we shoot a lot of threes."

When it's all said and done, and this will be true if Mons do or do not win the EuroCup, the campaign will have been an experience to treasure and remember forever.



That was obvious when Finch was looking ahead to the quarter-final series with Samara.

Quote:"It's been challenging"

he said.

Quote:"We have been playing some teams in quote un-quote bigger leagues"

Quote:"We're having to sit players down because of regulations. In Belgium, we can play with more foreigners, so we're short-handed (in Europe), but doing a good job of competing."

If you are watching Dexia play for the first time at the Final Four, bear in mind this outfit has a strong connection with Britain.



Finch is the coach of the British national team, and several of the players, including All Star point guard and leading scorer Michael Lenzly - he is averaging 14 points per game - are in that squad as well.



He has a great three-point shooting team, with James Cantamessa one of his most efficient at 49% (24 of 49).
Respect and thanks for everything:

Alvertis, Bodiroga, Jasikevicius, Radja, Wilkins, Vrankovic, Fotsis, Rebraca, Kattash, Gentile, Koch, Middleton, Kutluay, Rogers, Papadopoulos, Becirovic, Tomasevic, Siskauskas, Pekovic, Lakovic, Vujanic, Chatzivrettas, Maljkovic, Spanoulis and many more to follow in the near future.
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