Spain: Valencia, Real return with wins
The Spanish League end-of-season tournament finished its first round of games on Thursday evening in Valencia. The 12 teams with the best records when the competition was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic were divided into two groups of six squads each. All teams in each group are facing ach other once in a round-robin format and the best two squads from each will advance to the semifinals, to be played in a single-game format on Sunday, June 28. The winners will meet for the league championship on Tuesday, June 30. All games will be played behind closed doors at La Fonteta.
Valencia Basket was the first team to get a win in Group B by downing Morabanc Andorra 74-90 on Thursday afternoon. Alberto Abalde led the winners with 17 points. Mike Tobey added 15, Joan Sastre 11 and Sam Van Rossom 10 for Valencia. David Jelinek led Andorra with 11 points. Frank Massenat, Jeremy Senglin and Bandja Sy each had 10. Valencia made the most out of its home-court advantage, as its shooters were ready to deliver. Aaron Doornekamp, Jordan Loyd, Abalde and Fernando San Emeterio each struck from downtown, and Bojan Dubljevic added a layup-plus-foul that made it a double-digit game, 12-22, late in the first quarter. A layup by Nacho Llovet fixed the score at 14-22 after 10 minutes. San Emeterio insisted from beyond the arc early in the second quarter but Senglin, Llovet and Jelinek fueled a 10-0 run that made Valencia call timeout at 24-25. Sy soon nailed a one-legged jumper to put Andorra in charge, 29-27. Tobey and an outstanding Abalde rescued Valencia, and Brock Motum scored around the game to give his team a 41-50 lead at halftime. A 0-10 run highlighted by Tobey’s dunk allowed Valencia to make it a 16-point game, 44-60, soon after the break. Andorra was not done, however, as newcomer Babatunde Olumuyiwa and Frank Massenat rescued their team, and a driving layup by Clevin Hannah made it a one-point game, 69-70, with 7 minutes left. Abalde, Tobey and Sastre combined for 18 points in a 3-20 run that sealed the outcome, 72-90, allowing Valencia to get its first win.
Real Madrid had a good debut in the end-of-season tournament by downing Herbalife Gran Canaria 91-73 behind 19 points each from Jaycee Carroll and Sergio Llull. Anthony Randolph and Nico Laprovittola each had 11 for Real. Matt Costello led Gran Canaria with 26 points and John Shurna added 10. Laprovittola had 8 unanswered points in an 11-0 run which Randolph capped with a bomb from downtown for an 11-2 lead. Madrid downed 8 three-point shots in the first quarter – Randolph, Llull and Carroll each hit 2 apiece to make it a 21-point game, 37-16, after 10 minutes. Castello tried to change things for Gran Canaria early in the second quarter but Carroll, Llull and Rudy Fernandez kept Real way ahead, 49-31. Costello had 19 points in the opening 15 minutes, and eventually got help from Shurna and Oriol Pauli to give their team hope, 58-48, at halftime. Gran Canaria improved its defense after the break, allowing just 6 points in th enext 7 minutes. Meanwhile, Ioannis Bourousis and Beqa Burjanadze brought their team closer, 69-62, at the end of the third quarter. A 9-0 run which Fernandez capped with a triple restored a 78-64 margin midway through the fourth quarter. Gran Canaria ran out of energy and Real did not need much troble to cruise to a important home win.