Heartbreak as Unicaja fall at the final hurdle

The Unicaja players watch on as the trophy is presented to Real Madrid.
The Unicaja players watch on as the trophy is presented to Real Madrid. / Salvador Salas
  • The Malaga side were outplayed by Real Madrid from start to finish in the Sunday's Copa del Rey final

The dream is over. Unicaja's unexpected run in the Copa del Rey ended with runners-up medals as they were soundly beaten in Sunday's final by Real Madrid (95-68).

Unicaja had already majorly upset the odds by reaching the showpiece event in the first place. A narrow victory (90-86) over Basket Zaragoza in the quarters on Friday was followed by a convincing 92-59 win against Basquet Club Andorra a day later, leaving fans of the Malaga side dreaming big.

In fact, the whole city joined in the fun with fan parks set up in several points across Malaga, including in Plaza de la Constitución and in front of the Roman theatre.

However, three games in the space of three days ultimately trumped the euphoria and Real Madrid dealt a dose of reality at a packed-out Martín Carpena arena.

Unicaja showed maximum concentration at the start of the game and although Madrid led, the hosts stayed in the game without being caused too many problems. However, their lack of efficiency in the three-pointers began to take its toll, failing to take advantage of several counter-attacks. What's more, errors started to appear - a major failing considering the quality of Real's squad. This gave the first clear advantage to the side from the capital (10-19, min. 7). The first quarter ended 13-26 and, most worryingly, with the in-form Jaime Fernández suffering from an injury to his heel.

The second quarter started with three triples and the first serious problems arrived for Luis Casimiro's team (14-35), who started to show signs of anxiety as they tried to come back. This led them to make several bad decisions.

The coach made changes as he tried to put the brakes on their opponents' game but Madrid had plenty in reserve with every player that came off the bench going on to score three-pointers. Pablo Laso's team scored five three-pointers and only one two-point basket in the second quarter, and the result was a stunning 28-43 lead at the half-way point.

Nothing changed after the break, in fact it got worse. Unicaja struggled badly to handle the trio of Campazzo, Tavares and Carroll, especially after Fernández finally succumbed to his injury. At this point (42-68, min. 30), the match was already settled. Unicaja continued making mistakes, clearly overawed by the occasion, and Real Madrid, as they did in 2014, lifted the Copa in Malaga.

Ultimately, the table doesn't lie. Unicaja, who only qualified for the tournament as hosts, were miles behind their illustrious opponents on the day.