What Would a Final Be Without CSKA?!

J.R.Holden (photo cskabasket.com)
After the laser show and opening ceremony, the second semifinalists took the floor: CSKA Moscow and the Italian club Virtus Rome. The teams warmed up to the music "Red Army is Stronger Than All." And thats how it was, as Dusan Ivkovics players subsequently showed.

CSKA vs Virtus Roma: 72-60

Upon Virtus arrivan in St. Petersburg, it turned out that Rashard Griffiths luggage had been lost, including his shoes, which are an unbelievable size 18. Thanks to the efforts of CSKA and colleagues of our club sponsor Delta Sport the player was given a pair of shoes directly from Moscow by the opening tip-off.

It was the typical starting lineup for CSKA: Holden, Brown, Khryapa, Panov and Savrasenko. In the second minute, Khrapa opened up the scoring with a 3-pointer, starting a CSKA run. With the score 9-2, Pier Bucchi had to take a timeout. It worked for the Italians. The owner of the new pair of shoes, Griffith, tied the score at 11-11. During the Italian run, the American center for Virtus looked a lot better than his counterpart Alexey Savrasenko. But it proved difficult for Griffith to sustain that level. As soon as he took a seat, Ivkovic substituted the lighter Bashminov for Savrasenko. And in place of Panov, the CSKA head coach put in Mirsad Turkcan to cover Marco Tusek. The quarter ended with CSKA leading 16-14, with Brown and Khryapa each having scored 7 points.

In the second quarter, Sergey Monya took the floor. The fans were happy with the substitution, screaming "Go Monya! Save Russia!" After one rebound, Holden took the ball to the Italians basket and put CSKA up 30-20. Putting Tarlac and Papaloukas in the game, Ivkovic changed the tempo of the game, and for 30 seconds neither team could put the ball in the basket. Monya broke the draught with a put back on the final possession of the half. Going into the locker room, CSKA had a 12-point lead, 32-20.

CSKA dominated in the third quarter. The Italian teams head coach decided to save Rashard Griffith, whose leg was hurting (unfortunately, not only were the centers shoes in his luggage, but also his knee-brace. Sergei Panov found his rhythm, scoring 6 points in two minutes. The Moscow club extended its lead to 16 (51-35). Nonetheless, the Russians head coach made obvious his dissatisfaction with his players, who couldnt handle Marco Tusek and Alex Righetti.

Pierre Bucchis team went on a 10-2 run in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. The leading scorer was Marco Tusek for the Italians, scoring 24 points on the night. At one point, Viktor Khryapa tried to block a shot and sent Bennerman into the baskets support. Bennerman fell extremely hard. But a few minutes later Bennerman proved to be fine. With two minutes left and CSKA leading 70-54, the same happened to a CSKA player when Vyaltsev tried to dunk on a fastbreak and was knocked to the floor by Tonolli. Yegor punished the Italians with two converted free throws. When the final horn sounded, the Red Army wasnt necessarily stronger than all, but they were definitely stronger than Virtus. CSKA won by a score of 72-60 and earned a spot in the final, where it will face the Turkish club Efes Pilsen.

At the post-game press conference, Virtus head coach Pier Bucchi noted that its not the best of times for his club.

"We have problems with our roster at Virtus. Four of our players werent able to come to Russia, three of them are injured. Rashard Griffith lost his luggage. The CSKA leadership found a pair of new shoes for him, but he lost his knee brace as well, and he needs it because of a recent injury. Without it he felt very uncomfortable on the floor. It wasnt easy for us. CSKA is a great team with lots of talented players. The result was completely fair. Our opponent was stronger than we were."

Alex Righetti, Virtus guard:

"CSKA is a very good team. Tonight we did everything we could, but there is a big gap between us. We tried to play aggressively and create something, but their roster is too strong. We were just too tired at the end."

Dusan Ivkovic, CSKA head coach:

"My team and I personally respect Vladimir Kondrashin and Alexander Belov very much. I remember the coach very well. One time I came to Leningrad with my team and played against Spartak. Today CSKA tried to show what it is capable of. Dont forget that this was our fourth game this week, and tomorrow we have another. Maybe you expected more from the team, but the guys are really tired. I think that they played well and were stronger than their opponents today."