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Unicaja gear up for third European final

The players celebrating a historic victory in the changing rooms.
The players celebrating a historic victory in the changing rooms. / Salvador Salas
  • The Malaga side have set up an all-Spanish EuroCup final against Valencia after seeing off Lokomitiv at the Carpena

Despite an indifferent league campaign, 2017 will be going into the Unicaja history books after the Malaga side booked their place in only their third European final after beating Lokomotiv Kuban 74-63 at the Martín Carpena last Friday evening.

The Malaga side will be setting out to claim the fourth title in their history when the final kicks off on Tuesday after a surprising turnaround in fortunes in recent months. Facing elimination from the first group stage and Plaza fearing for his job, the team's form has taken a dramatic turn for the better and the season could yet end with silverware.

On the night, the hosts executed their game plan to perfection in the opening stages, starting with such great energy that the Russian side couldn't handle it and called a time-out. This stopped the clock but it didn't stop the onslaught and the home side racked up a first-quarter lead from which their opponents would ultimately never recover (27-11).

This is despite an unexpected defensive improvement from the Russians in the second quarter which narrowed the deficit but the re-introduction of Nedovic, Fogg and Díez in the third quarter made the margin more comfortable going into the deciding phase (53-42).

The final Lokomotiv onslaught in the closing stages was well managed by Plaza's team, with Nedovic especially thwarting the opposition and ensuring that his side would be progressing.

Unicaja learned about their opponents for the final on Wednesday when Valencia won their deciding third semifinal match against Hapoel Jerusalem 90-75. Tickets were already sold out even before the final opposition was known, though coach Joan Plaza ultimately got his wish of an all-Spanish final "not because they'll be easier to play against", he said, but because "they're a Spanish team and I know people there."

Coincidentally, both sides will have an opportunity to size each other up this Saturday (7pm), as they face eachother in league action.

The final will start on 28 March, with the second leg in Malaga on the 31st. If necessary, the third leg will be played on 5 April.