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Image associated to news article on:  CSKA dash Euroleague hopes again

CSKA dash Euroleague hopes again

Regal Barça’s progress in the Euroleague was practically perfect – untouchable in the first phase, consistent in the last 16 and excellent in their quarter final win over TAU. Unfortunately, they came up against bogey team CSKA in the Final Four.

They may have bowed out at the semi final stage, but the players and coaches could hold their head high after beating Olympiakos 79-95 to take third place. Ironically champions Panathinaikos, who beat CSKA 73-71 in the final, had lost home and away to Barca earlier in the competition.

Nearly perfect first phase

Regal Barça’s progress in the first phase of the 2008/9 Euroleague was very nearly perfect, losing just one game out of ten – at the always tricky court of Montepaschi Siena (71-61). The wins included impressive victories against Panathinaikos at the Palau (90-66) and in Athens (76-87) as well as a thrashing of the Italian champions Siena in Barcelona by 87-61. The team were statistically the best in Europe and Ersan Ilyasova was voted best player of the month in October.

Tough Top 16 draw

The draw for the Top 16 did Regal Barça no favours as they were drawn in the same group as Real Madrid and Maccabi Tel Aviv and Pascual’s men made a poor start by losing to Madrid 85-83 after dominating the game till the last couple of minutes.

However, they soon bounced back and were quickly playing their best basketball, winning all the next 5 games including a 74-90 win against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, where they’d not won for 18 years to top the group and book a place in the quarter finals against TAU.

Turning point against TAU

Regal Barca hardly had a good recent record against TAU having lost the last six games against them, including the 3-0 defeat in the 2007/08 ACB final and the first game at the Palau seemed to confirm the balance of power between the two with TAU running out clear 75-84 winners. That game was to prove a massive turning point though, both in Europe and in the domestic clashes between the two as the season drew to its climax.

The determination to win of players like Navarro and Andersen, together with the great work the back room staff put in to convince the squad of their possibilities came to fruition as they won the second game at the Palau 85-62. Although they lost the third game in Vitoria by 69-52 they recovered the injured Navarro for the fourth game and La Bomba proved to be a decisive factor in their 63-84 win to take the series back for the decider in Barcelona. The team made no mistake at the Palau and their 78-62 win took them through to the Final Four again, this time in Berlin.

Third place in Berlin

The squad arrived in Berlin full of hope and expectations after their brilliant progress to take them into the Final Four, but Justas they had done three years earlier in Prague, they found themselves up against CSKA. Although an inspired David Andersen gave them a flying start to the game, Siskauskas destroyed their hopes with a third quarter exhibition that paved the way for the Russians’ 78-82 win. The team didn’t let their heads drop though and in front of 1,500 fans who’d come to cheer them on in the German capital, they took third spot with a convincing 79-95 win over Olympiakos.

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