New boy Eyenga gets Unicaja over the line in quarter-final first leg

Unicaja will look to confirm their place in the semi-finals of the play-offs with victory in Tenerife on Friday.
Unicaja will look to confirm their place in the semi-finals of the play-offs with victory in Tenerife on Friday. / Álvaro Cabrera
  • The 27-year-old, who has joined the Malaga side for the rest of the league season, scored 21 points on a memorable debut, giving Joan Plaza's the advantage going into Friday's game

Unicaja have one foot in the semi-finals of the league play-offs after a 79-65 victory over Iberostar Tenerife at the Palacio de los Deportes.

The hosts were made to work hard for their victory, which they secured largely down to 21 points from new signing Christian Eyenga.

Tenerife set the pace from the get-go thanks to three-pointers from Aaron Dornekamp, who has been one of the finds of this league season. Unicaja were struggling to score baskets themselves, managing only four baskets from 17 attempts, and as a result trailed 8-15 in the opening five minutes.

However, new boy Eyenga stepped up and his five points from two baskets led Unicaja into scoring 11 points while conceding just two, which put Joan Plaza's side into a 19-17 lead just before the end of the first quarter.

Unicaja's game suffered for large parts of the second quarter due to a lack of three-pointers, with only one scored in thirteen minutes. Nevertheless, with Tenerife once again having regained the lead, Carlos Suárez and Nemanja Nedovic stepped up when their team most needed them, scoring three long-range efforts between them to put Unicaja into a ten-point lead at half-time.

Tenerife were not about to give up and continued to deny Unicaja the opportunity to put clear daylight between the two sides. A few minutes passed by which threatened to make or break the match for the visitors. Unfortunately for Plaza's side, four scores from Frenchman Tariq Kirksay ensured Tenerife made it all to play for in the final quarter, with the score 57-54 to the hosts.

Plaza deployed Eyenga to plug the gap that Kirksay was using to punish Unicaja with his three-pointers. However, not only did the new signing manage to halt the Frenchman's advances, but he succeeded in counter-attacking, with his 14 points in eight minutes ending Tenerife's hopes of victory and ensuring Unicaja are just one step away from a semi-final berth.

The second play-off quarter-final takes place in Tenerife on Friday.