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The Unicaja players lift the Copa del Rey trophy. Agencia Lof

Outsiders Unicaja bring the Copa del Rey back to Malaga for just the second time in history

The city basketball team clinched the trophy with a 80-83 victory over Lenovo Tenerife in Badalona on Sunday night, beating both Barcelona and Real Madrid on the way to the final

Monday, 20 February 2023, 07:52

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The Unicaja basketball team sealed just their second ever Copa del Rey title on Sunday night with a tightly contested victory over Lenovo Tenerife.

The Malaga side ran out 80-83 winners in Badalona after shading all but one of the quarters (16-17, 23-20, 21-23, 20-23) thanks primarily to the individual efforts of Tyson Carter, named MVP of the tournament, and Tyler Kalinoski.

Unicaja executed the game plan to perfection and demonstrated the same chemistry on the court that has been in evidence throughout the competition and which helped them go from tournament outsiders to unlikely winners.

Much of the credit must go to coach Ibon Navarro who has only been in the job for a year and has gone from saving the team from relegation to Copa winners.

"I'm so happy for the boys. They deserve it," he said, following the game.

Local boy and captain Alberto Díaz, who admitted to nearly fainting with emotion as he lifted the trophy, added: "I have no words. We have an incredible group of human beings. They deserve the best and they've shown that there's no one who can beat them. And with these fans? What more could you ask for?"

Captain Alberto Díaz.
Captain Alberto Díaz. ACB PHOTO

Barcelona and Real Madrid both beaten on the way

The Copa del Rey got off to a great start for Unicaja as they overcame their own personal hoodoo to beat Barça 87-89. The Malaga side hadn't beaten the Catalans in the tournament since 3 January 1994 but they put that right on Thursday night.

Unicaja never stopped believing and had to overcome a bad start to eventually force extra time. Thanks to the efforts of Darío Brizuela and Kendrick Perry, they outplayed their opponents and sealed their place in the semi-finals, where they faced Real Madrid on Saturday.

This was their best showing of the competition. Everything went exactly to plan and Real Madrid really didn't stand a chance. Navarro's team won 82-93 and in doing so, Unicaja became the first team in history to beat both Barcelona and Real Madrid in the same Copa.

The best Copa in history?

This year's Copa del Rey is widely being touted as the best in history.

Badalona, hosting the Copa del Rey for the first time in 40 years, welcomed every league winner for the past two decades for this edition of the tournament.

The level, therefore, was extraordinarily high and every match was closely contested. However, that didn't stop Unicaja from bring home the trophy for the first time in 18 years.

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