The magic of basketball sometimes turns into drama. This epic final of the regular phase of the ACB will be remembered for years. Due to seismic movements above and below. The thing about permanence is another matter. What occupied the people of Miribilla was the playoff. And such suspense was concentrated that the work of nine months, the 34 games of a whole year and the heart of Gran Canaria were placed in Luz’s hands. She threw a Goudelock triple-stone that didn’t even touch the hoop and the Brazilian point guard picked up the loose ball. The score was tied at 81. An unopposed tray under the rim for a player who knows everything, because he has many battles behind him. He failed it incomprehensibly. Sport is that cruel, sometimes it gives you glory and other times it throws you in the mud. He hit the dust.
There almost all the options escaped Bilbao Basket for sealing the feat of entering the next phase of the ACB. Great punishment victim of his own mistakes. They had lost Granca and Murcia and he had it in his bag, he knew the results and maybe that was the worst because he put too much pressure on himself for a giant prize. He wasted it, because in extra time Betis, led by a stellar Evans, was much more solid. He only played for fun and that makes things easier, because the mind is clean. His final year has been portentous, he is capable of forcing an extension and wanting to win it, when the normal thing would have been to give the opponent free rein and not suffer any more. He looked relegated and has finished with a high zone game. Winning mentality. It’s hard to win a game with 15 missed free throws. This Surne loves it rough. Last year he achieved permanence with a miracle, and without an audience, and on this occasion he has become related to that bump in Raúl López’s farewell in 2016, in which a very distant triple by Sastre with a Zaragoza that nothing was at stake ruined other title eliminators.
Among its thousand rules and codes, the sport handles one known to all: when two teams face each other and one risks his life and the other comes to party after achieving his goals, it is rare that the coin does not fall on the side of the first. But there are exceptions to that maxim. Sometimes the tension drowns the latter and frees the latter. And that happened in Miribilla. Bilbao Basket could not pass up the opportunity to do what was in their power, and they did, just like their direct rivals. There was no desire to look at other corners. He had the season resolved for a long time, he did the most complicated thing which is to motivate himself for a very complicated playoff and when he again demanded himself for another goal, this time titanic, he no longer gave him the head for such an undertaking. From minute one it was obvious that the one who most wanted to win was Bilbao Basket. This was reflected in a full first quarter in defense and attack, with a 15-2 start. What an activity! Casimiro saw the calamity and took Brown and Paseckins off the track almost without breaking a sweat, who did not understand how to get in front of a cyclone led by Delgado.
Walker filled Mumbrú’s defense with energy. Johnson scored the first green and white basket and that was when 3:10 had passed. The markers of Las Palmas and Murcia smiled and it seems that they gave gasoline to the ‘men in black’. Betis was killed by his shots of two in the first act: 1/8 in shots, 12 percent. But in what could be the last commitment of the year, the Surne could not separate himself from his usual DNA, the one with the saw teeth. A bad second quarter, listless, with the rotations lowering the level, allowed the Sevillian team to put the tables: 20-20, after a 5-18, with three consecutive three-pointers. The Basques scored again (39-30) but there was still a world to play for.
Delgado started another of his private wars. This time for a minor struggle with Pasecniks in which he was fouled. Then he provoked an attack on the Latvian giant. That heated up a game that was very warm. The results continued to smile on the other two courts where eighth place was at stake. Delgado was injured in an action and was left lying in the Andalusian painting. Masiulis took advantage of the bewilderment to hit a triple and raise the distance to 10 (62-52) at 2:30 p.m. to finish. And there was more: a free throw of the two that Withey had to place the +11.
Two mate attempts, by Masiulis and Withey, could put more ground in between for the Biscayans, but they went into limbo. Evans didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to put his stamp on it. With his enormous talent and with a Reyes out of his mind (he made an unsportsmanlike thing), Betis captured a 0-8 and served as a lever to be one at the end of the third quarter: 65-64. The Andalusians did not play anything, they were only judges for the playoff and relegation, they moved around the track with a back and forth plan and that made them travel uninhibited. Pozas gave them an interesting rotation.
Until Wiley put Casimiro’s team ahead. It was a key moment. The Surne made the worst possible decisions. It was the first time he had seen himself out of the playoffs. And an unknown how he was going to react. The anxiety grew and he did it again: when the anguish took over the bodies, Walker picked up a loose ball and converted it into a triple to tie and continue to believe. Another chapter to take your breath away. The end of regulation time was pure tragedy, while the favorable stars were confirmed in the distance. Betis got four offensive rebounds in one action. It was certified that that could not throw more emotion. The free throw carousel led to an absolute tachycardia, with Luz missing two key free throws and a basket that was worth a playoff.
The extension was Andalusian. It was seen coming. The locals came up with all the pressure that they have taken off this month in which they already had permanence in the safe and only competed for a blessed illusion. Evans had caused a panic (37 PIR) and the defense focused on him, something that other players benefited from, such as Johnson, who was a player, and Wiley. End of a memorable course in Miribilla. Until the last second there was an option to extend the season, of an elusive playoff since 2015. There will be many who do not follow. Finally, ninth since thinking about colder tomorrow is not bad at all. Seeing yourself out of the anguish of Andorra and Burgos is the healthiest thing. A new stage is preparing. Let’s see if Mumbrú is in it.
Casimiro: “The team has grown mentally”
Luis Casimiro stressed that “the mental growth” that his team experienced to “start out of the game and end up winning in extra time” was the key to victory. “We couldn’t do this a month and a half ago. The team has grown on a mental level to do these things that we’ve been doing lately,” said the Sevillian team’s coach in his assessment of the match.
Casimiro admitted that Betis started the game “without the necessary tension” and added that after holding on “as best they could” in the first half they “grew” in the second half and in extra time.
“In those minutes we were better in defense, we have been ourselves and in attack we have maintained. I am very happy with the result and with the team in general”, summed up the coach of the Verdiblanco team.
Mumbrú: “We will sit down and talk”
Mumbrú stressed that “a layup at the last second”, the one missed by Rafa Luz that could have given the Basque team qualification for the playoff for the title, “does not obscure a great season” for the ‘men in black’. “The team has made a titanic effort today and throughout the year. When the season started, and even more after the 0-5, many considered us relegated before playing. And, when the playoff seemed impossible, we were alive until the last second of the extension. I have told them that I was proud of them”, confessed the technician.
Mumbrú, who admitted that “the pressure has weighed a bit on them” in those five extra minutes, highlighted the faith of his players in the playoff options and assured that “none had picked up a fork from home because we thought we had the option “.
Regarding his future, he limited himself to commenting that once the season is over, and after “a few days pass after this maelstrom of matches”, he will meet with the club to study the situation for next season. “We will sit down, we will talk, we will see what is best and we will make the decisions that have to be made. We wanted to fight for the playoff so much that until now we have only focused on trying,” said the coach.