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Oh, what a difference two weeks can make.
Just 13 days after bringing on a new skipper to right a ship that had wandered off course, FC Barcelona Lassa is weighing anchor in the Canary Islands and heading back home with some shiny new hardware aboard — the 2018 Copa del Rey trophy.
After spending much of the second half up by double digits, Barça saw Real Madrid chip away in final minutes only to fall short, allowing the Catalans to beat their arch-rivals, 92–90, at the Las Palmas Arena on Sunday night. The title is Barça Lassa's first of the season and the 24th Copa del Rey championship in Club history.
Barça point guard Thomas Heurtel was named the tournament MVP.
Playing with a renewed sense of urgency under the team’s mid-season coaching replacement, the veteran Serbian Svetislav Pesic, Barça Lassa ’s stingy defense and dominating rebounding helped them win their third game in as many days to hoist the title.
“I’m very happy to win the trophy,” Pesic said. “It was difficult. I’m thrilled.”
Barça was hot from the field for most of the evening, shooting 58% (23–39) from 2-point territory and 44% (8–18) from beyond the arc. Real Madrid shot just 42% overall.
The big difference however, was on the boards. Barça out-rebounded Madrid, 39–23, including a crushing 26–13 on the defensive end. Barça won the battle on the offensive glass as well, 13–10.
After back-to-back wins over Baskonia on Friday and hosts Las Palmas on Saturday, Barça, led by shooting guard Pau Ribas’s 21 points, overcame a shaky start on Sunday before running to a double digit lead over Real Madrid for large swathes of the second half.
All night long, while Ribas was racking up the points, Heurtel was the man spreading the ball around. Heurtel, who, after starring in Barça’s first two wins of the tournament, became the first Frenchman ever to be named Copa del Rey MVP, finished with a game-high 7 assists.
“This Cup is huge,” Ribas said. “I’m so happy with the great effort put forth by the team.”
Barça center Ante Tomic scored 17 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Adam Hanga and Rakim Sanders dropped in 12 points each. Adrien Moerman led Barça with a game-high 7 rebounds.
“I think we all have to be happy because we played well,” Heurtel said. “And Pesic is the one who brought that happiness.”
Barça led relatively comfortably until late in the fourth quarter, when a handful of untimely Barça turnovers and lights out three-point shooting by Real Madrid slowly chipped away at the blaugrana advantage.
With the two teams trading free throws down the stretch, Barça made just enough of theirs to keep Madrid at arm’s length. After Trey Thompkins drained a three-pointer to trim the Barça lead to just 2 points with 12 seconds remaining, Madrid made a quick foul on power forward Pierre Oriola to stop the clock and send Barça to the line with the chance to ice the game.
But Oriola missed both free throws, giving Madrid the ball back, down by two, with 8 seconds remaining and the clock running.
A quick outlet pass got the ball to Fabien Causeur, deep in the corner, behind the three-point line, and the French shooting guard pump faked a Barça defender to give himself an open look to win the game — and the title.
Caseur’s shot, however, was an airball. And after a quick scramble under the basket saw Rudy Fernández come up with the offensive rebound, his last-second floater fell short.
The sweet sound of the final buzzer went off and, with the Madrid players in a mix of shock and confusion, the Barça players stormed the court and the celebration was on.
"We're very happy for our fans," said Barça big man, Víctor Claver, who chipped in with 7 points and 5 rebounds. "We fought for this Cup. It was really tough, but we deserved it. Now, it's time to celebrate it with everyone who supported us."
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