Final-quarter comeback seals European glory for Unicaja with victory in Valencia
The most famous European night in Unicaja’s history saw Joan Plaza’s side overcome a player disqualification and a score deficit in the final quarter of the game to defeat Valencia in the deciding EuroCup final match.
Unicaja have now ensured that they will compete in next season’s Euroleague, having suffered the injustice of not being allowed to play in the competition in May last year.
The win was in serious doubt at one stage after Alen Omić was dismissed following an altercation between Rafa Martínez and Nemanaja Nedović which saw the Slovenian jump off the bench and grab the Valencia player to separate the duo.
Not only was Omić ejected at the end of the third quarter, but Valencia led 56-43 going into the final quarter as a devastating defeat seemed the likely outcome.
However, Joan Plaza’s men united for one final push, squeezing the lines and defending for their lives.
Díez’s three-pointer gave the visitors initial momentum in the final quarter, before Jamar Smith joined in on the act and himself began to score baskets as Unicaja began to eat away at the deficit.
The American scored from two free throws, and then from two three-point baskets in quick succession, before scoring the three-pointer that confirmed Unicaja’s comeback, with the score 59-56 to Plaza’s side with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
Another basket then sealed victory and sparked wild celebrations among the team and management alike.
Valencia’s initial domination
Despite a textbook start from Unicaja, which saw them race into a 14-6 lead after Nedović’s fine basket, the introduction of Bojan Dubljević saw the tide turn in favour of the hosts.
The Montenegrin’s teammates immediately began firing passes into him, and inevitably the power forward began his scoring spree, contributing two three-pointers to Valencia’s four-consecutive three-point baskets as the first quarter finished 22-18 to the hosts.
Nedović’s reintroduction saw a mini-fightback from the Malaga side with the score 33-30 to Valencia at half time.
But Unicaja failed to turn the situation around and conceded basket after basket before Omić’s ejection, which was then compounded by further baskets to make it 56-43.
Nevertheless, the dismissal inspired them to write the most incredible chapter in their history.source surinenglish