Second consecutive defeat for Cáceres, a World Heritage Site, which in the stronghold of Bàsquet Girona offered two faces: the outstanding and unstoppable ones of the first and last quarter, and the deficient ones of the second and third. When everything seemed lost, and in a show of pride (and also of tactical intelligence from the bench), he managed to take the game to extra time. However, Marc Gasol’s fatigue and dominance at key moments ended up ruining the efforts of the visiting players.
The team prepared by Roberto Blanco bordered on perfection during a first quarter in which the figures were as impressive as they were impossible to maintain in the long run: 66 percent accuracy in field goals (64 in outside shots) and the ability to minimize the influence on the game and on the scoreboard of a legend like Marc Gasol. The double world champion was unable to score a single basket in play during the first ten minutes, and only in the last action was he able to go to the free throw line to release his counter. However, the toll to pay for this development was extremely high: Mbala, Belemene and Olaizola were loaded with fouls too soon, with a quintet, already short.
Cáceres, a World Heritage Site, began impressively, with a triple by Manu Rodríguez and a basket that put land in the middle very soon (0-5). In fact, the first four attacks were so successful that they forced the local players to seek the first correction with an early timeout (5-9). The Catalan team only scored one two-point basket in the entire opening quarter (1/7) and stayed afloat with their outside success. A partial of 0-9 in less than four minutes raised the difference to the maximum enjoyed by the World Heritage Cáceres (8-23).
Such an offensive level, with an equally high defensive mortgage, was impossible to maintain. On the one hand, the drop in performance of Roberto Blanco’s pupils was foreseeable. On the other, a giant like Marc Gasol also had to appear sooner or later. The combination of both factors was lethal and practically neutralized everything positive of the initial act. In fact, the double world champion and recent NBA winner left a basket to remember as soon as the match resumed, in an impossible foreshortening behind the board. Plus, he scored the extra shot and led the way for his team. Díaz and Manu Rodríguez, with two consecutive three-pointers, brought the difference back to twelve points (20-32), but the situation changed definitively as a result of Olaizola’s third personal foul, in a 2+1 for Jawara (32 -38). Belemene and Toledo formed 4 and 5, in what was a nightmare for the team from Cáceres: not a single point scored in the last four minutes and, for the first time, at a disadvantage on the scoreboard, after a Vecvagars triple that sent the duel at intermission the local team in advantage (40-38).
Going through changing rooms did not serve to recover the best version of Cáceres, a World Heritage Site, although it did help, at least, for the players trained by Roberto Blanco to remember how to score. Mbala and Manu Rodríguez, again from the outside, supported the team in an even start and with an exchange of baskets. The problem was that, opposite, Bàsquet Girona not only did not fail so much. It looked like what you’d expect from such a template. Marc Gasol, with a triple from eight meters, brought ecstasy to the stands and the difference in favor of his team to the maximum so far (51-43). Bàsquet Girona added an enormous success from the perimeter to the interior superiority. Once again the difference grew to twelve points (64-52), and once again the final minutes of the quarter were a nightmare for the team from Cáceres, unable to score a single point in the last three minutes. The percentage of success went from 66 percent in the first quarter to 29 and 31 in the second and third.
Franch (5), Urtasun (16), Fjellerup (16), Jawara (7) and Marc Gasol (17) -initial quintet-, Sàbat (9), Vila (4), Stürup (4), Vecvagars (5) and Sorolla (3).
Caceres World Heritage Site
Sanz (4), Schmidt (14), Manu Rodríguez (11), Mbala (14) and Dukan (6) -initial quintet-, Díaz (3), Lobo (6), Olaizola (5), Belemene (9) and Toledo (8)
Mas Cagide (Catalan Committee), Esteve Malmierca (Castilian and Leonese Committee) and Garvin Domingo (Madrid Committee). They eliminated the visiting Mbala for five personal fouls (min. 44).
14-26, 26-12 (40-38, rest), 24-14 (64-52), 12-24 (76-76) and 10-4 (86-80).
Fontajau. 2,334 spectators. Before the start of the match, a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the victims of the Ukrainian war.
Roberto Blanco raised a zonal defense 3-2 to look for a miracle that would occur in the last quarter. He managed to completely disconnect the rival from him, unable to score outside shots, with only six points in the paint. The change in offense and defense, with Toledo and Sanz as Schmidt’s squires, led Cáceres, a World Heritage Site, to iron out all the difference, thanks to a 0-11 run in just over three minutes. With 2:34 remaining, Mbala managed to put the Cáceres team ahead (72-73). The mini game that he managed to force was decided by an exchange of free throws in the last minute and a saving penetration by Schmidt in the last action, able to overcome Marc Gasol’s opposition. He did not go in for a bit, but Mbala, with two seconds to go, tapped to force extra time (76-76).
The titanic effort to equalize seemed to take its toll on the team from Cáceres during extra time, in which they were only able to add two attacks, both by Mbala. They served to equalize (80-80), but not to stop Marc Gasol who, basically from the free throw line and with dominance under the hoops, was enough to leave the victory in Girona (86-80).
Roberto Blanco: “We were not respected”
Roberto Blanco, coach of the Cáceres World Heritage Site, arrived at the press conference after the game with the same anger as minutes before, when after extra time his team suffered the second consecutive defeat. The coach, without changing his low tone, lamented the treatment received by the refereeing trio, in a reflection that began with congratulating Bàsquet Girona for the environment and the facilities they enjoy. «First of all, I want to congratulate Bàsquet Girona», he pointed out. “Without a doubt, the pavilion was the differential factor to lose,” added the coach, who then referred to what happened on the parquet: “I am a coach who always tries to treat everyone with respect, with a tone with a conciliatory voice, with a lot of respect for the players and the refereeing establishment, which I think does a very complicated job, but I demand the same respect». Precisely, the latter was considered by Blanco to be lacking towards his players. “We were not respected in the same way. It may be the first time since I took the team that I complain about this and I will do it as always, because I believe that respect is the main part of the sport », he stressed. “There is no usual channel to talk to them (the referees), because the games end and they leave, but I am still as hot as when the game ended. I have education to complain from respect », he continued.
As far as the development of his team is concerned, the coach of the Cáceres World Heritage Site praised the start made by his players, who believes that they overpaid for the effort. «We had a very good staging: we worked very well on the circulation of the ball and we were successful because of that good team play. We had a downturn again, which was not a disconnection, a desire to solve the game in the second quarter. There we allowed Girona to feel comfortable, which with that ability to score and generate took us out of the game », he explained. “In the last quarter we did a very good defensive job, but in extra time we were not comfortable, we still lacked a little energy, but working this way we can win, and lose, against anyone,” he concluded.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.