Unicaja seal semi-final berth after victory in Tenerife decider

Christian Eyenga's re-introduction in the third quarter was pivotal to Unicaja's victory in the decider.
Christian Eyenga's re-introduction in the third quarter was pivotal to Unicaja's victory in the decider. / Salvador Salas
  • Joan Plaza's side confirmed a third semi-final play-off in four years, which this time around will see the Malaga side face Real Madrid

Unicaja secured their spot in the semi-finals of this year's playoffs after a 71-61 home victory over Iberostar Tenerife in the deciding quarter-final match.

Tenerife's 73-67 victory over Unicaja on Friday meant that the winner of Sunday's game at the Carpena would advance to the last four, and a strong physical display from Joan Plaza's side ensured Unicaja will face Real Madrid in the next play-off stage.

The expected tension given the magnitude of the match transmitted to the rhythm of the game, with only a few scores in the opening exchanges.

However, Unicaja soon found their mojo and shooting accuracy, with three-pointers from Jeff Brooks and Jamar Smith putting the Malaga side into a 12-6 lead with five minutes gone.

Tenerife maintained a strong defence, but Unicaja's physical superiority allowed them to take a 16-10 lead into the second quarter.

The baskets continued to come for the hosts, with three consecutive three-point baskets from Nemanja Nedović unsettling the often compact and solid Tenerife team.

Eleven points without reply from the home side and a consequent 33-17 scoreline threatened to completely kill off the game, but baskets in quick succession from the visitors saw Unicaja's lead cut to nine points, with the half-time score 35-26.

Unicaja threatened but ultimately failed to add further scores to their tally and as a result saw a backlash from their opponents through Georgios Borgis, who put Tenerife within six points of their hosts.

After two three-pointers apiece, Plaza brought Nedović and Christian Eyenga back on, moves which revived the hosts at both ends of the court, with the former's three-pointer putting Unicaja 51-41 ahead going into the final quarter.

Oliver Lafayette, who has had a relatively quiet season, saved his best minutes for the final quarter, scoring decisive baskets to extend Unicaja's lead to 12 points with just six minutes remaining.

Nevertheless, Tenerife refused to give in and they set up a tense finale by scoring ten points, thanks to scores from Rodrigo San Miguel and Tariq Kirksay, while conceding just three to put the score at 63-56 to the hosts.

However, the visitors' decision to go for three-pointers saw their accuracy decrease and a ruthless Unicaja punished them by scoring two baskets on the break through Dani Díez and Nedović to secure victory and a semi-final against Real Madrid.

The first of the semi-final matches will take place in Madrid on Friday.