(Make sure you also read the final day review with some overall thoughts about the Basketball Champions League)

Yesterday, no more than an hour before the tip-off of the first BCL Final Four semifinal, it rained for around ten minutes in Tenerife. It was a short but proper shower — “God peeing on us”, as local described it.

Ten minutes were also enough for both teams that emerged from the semi-finals to make it to the final: Banvit BK and Iberostar Tenerife. The Turkish side outscored AS Monaco 18-8 in the 3rd quarter, to cancel their opponents pretty good start and enter the last quarter with a 1 point lead and the momentum clearly on their side. Then, all the hosts of the first ever FIBA BCL Final Four needed was a solid five minutes at the end of the first half and another five in the start of the second one, when they kept Reyer Venezia scoreless, for a safe double-digits lead.

But those ten minutes of each game definitely don’t tell the whole story of either duel.

Banvit BK – AS Monaco (83-74)

Monaco started the game as you would expect them, bringing in their high levels of athleticism, getting physical and making threes – being 4/5 from behind the arc at the end of the first quarter. And while they maintained their energy levels quite high for the biggest part of the rest of the game, they shot a devastating 2/20 3pointers in the next three quarters.

Of course that’s not the only element of the game that resulted in the boxscore to read 83-74 at the end of the game. Banvit players entered the court after the halftime break with a clear intention to not allow their opponents to demonstrate what makes them a team very fun to watch and contained them to 8 points in the 3rd quarter. Most will probably focus on defense and how Filipovski’s guys prevented Monaco from making easy baskets but I would stress out how important offensive rhythm was for them too. Gasper Vidmar was outpaced in the paint for the biggest part of the game and the usual suspect for Banvit, Jordan Theodore, only had 3 points in the 3rd quarter – so how did the Turkish side manage to not only limit the French one to 8 points but also score 18? Enter Kulig, Korkmaz and Orelik!

Kulig’s statline doesn’t read that impressive, with 7 points, 1 turnover and 4 personal fouls in 20:41 of playing time. Until you reach the +/- column that has the number “15” on it which makes you go back and read the number “6” in the rebounds one. Something worth mentioning is that in those 7 points there is a “and one” play straight after Vidmar was benched because of his 4th personal foul. Then, Korkmaz took over:

Korkmaz eventually hit another 3pointer and those 9 points were part of the difference between Banvit and Monaco in the 3rd quarter. The remaining parts belong to Gediminas Orelik who added 16 points (with 5/9 field goals and 4/4 FTs) and 5 rebounds playing for the whole of the game (that’s right people, Orelik played for 40 minutes)! All these guys stepping up gave Theodore the chance for a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists in only 3 seconds of playing time less than Orelik’s (39:57)!

For Monaco, Shuler finished the game with 20 points but only 1 assist in the rest of his statline. Wright and Bost combined 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 1 steal but also 9 fouls and a devastating 7/23 field goals and 3/8 free throws. Billy Yakouba Ouattara’s performance is also worth of mention: 11 points with 5/7 field goals.

The most interesting and positive thing for AS Monaco from this semifinal, however, at least in my opinion, came from the postgame. Shuler and Ouattara came out of the locker room to go to the mixed zone and the press conference room looking not so sad and with hands around each other’s backs so I asked both about it and both gave me an answer among the same lines:

Iberostar Tenerife – Umana Reyer Venezia (67-58)

The beginning of the second BCL semifinal had two surprises: Venezia’s fans and Venezia’s start of the game. Probably boosted by the support they were getting, Reyer’s players had a stunning first quarter that could have given them an even bigger lead than the 5-points one they got. Tenerife managed to fix things in the second quarter and with a stats-perfect performance by Timas Abromaitis they left the court for the halftime break with a 6-points lead. Venezia was hanging in there though and the second half was looking like it could be quite as interesting but then the first five minutes of the 3rd quarter happened: The Italian side went scoreless in that period and the deficit went up to almost 20 points.

Walter De Raffaele’s players managed to prevent Tenerife from scoring for a couple of minutes but they just couldn’t score either. After a three pointer from Ress that brought the score differential close to a single-digit number Tenerife called a timeout and with less than 5 minutes left for the game it was “fullcourt press” time for Reyer. Again, unfortunately for them, it went away quite quickly as they got two fouls in two consecutive defensive attempts and Tenerife managed to guard their lead until the end of the game.

All in all, nobody can blame Umana Reyer Venezia for not trying but an Abromaitis-guided Iberostar Tenerife was simply just better. Timothy James “Tim” Abromaitis was sensational and came very very close to a double-double (19 points with 7/9 field goals and 9 rebounds in 24:19 of playing time).

The semi-finals concluded with another demonstration of respect, when postgame both De Raffaele and Mike Bramos congratulated Tenerife and admitted their opponents deserved to reach the final much more than they did. The classiness of all the staff and players is definitely something we will be taking away with us from Tenerife when the Final Four is over.

Iberostar Tenerife – Banvit BK (Sunday, April 30, 19:15 GMT+1)

The first ever Basketball Champions League season comes to an end on Sunday, with CB 1939 Canarias – known as Iberostar Tenerife, hosting Banvit Basketbol Kulubu. It’s the locals that want to defend their ground versus the team that wanted to win this since the beginning of the season. And it certainly looks interesting!

Banvit’s performance in half of the semifinal can give them the right to say they are keeping the best for the final and Tenerife can say they will have much more help from players like Doornekamp and Bogris. Overall, however, it’s pretty much unknown territory as this is the first ever European final for both coaches and all staff and players. If I was to point out a couple of elements that I am already excited to watch it would be Gasper Vidmar’s performance after his rusty semi-final, Furkan Korkmaz’ attitude after the confidence he probably got from the ending of the semi-final and Bryan Colangelo watching him, Jordan Theodore, obviously, and how will Tenerife decide to play this, tempo and attacking-style wise, as well as who is going to turn up for them this time.

To conclude, for those of you that are into digging deeper for this game, Rob Scott has written a pretty good preview over at EuroLeague Adventures, there are the “closer look” articles on both Tenerife and Banvit in Basketball Champions League’s official website and then a couple of interesting bits of advanced data analytics that I produced from the play-by-play data of the season that you can check below:

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