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FOTO: ARXIU FCB.

Barça Regal final game of the regular phase in Manresa has confirmed that the team will travel to Istanbul in excellent form for their Euroleague Final Four beginning on Friday. Already guaranteed first place in the table, Barça started powerfully and took an early lead which they never looked like losing, despite a spirited fight back by the home team Assignia. Navarro was sidelined by a niggle in his right ankle but a Barça squad with strength in depth barely noticed his absence. As the players go into the decisive stage of the season, Olympiakos will find themselves up against a team high in morale and confidence.

Pressure leads to points

Asselin and Ndong led their respective teams from the outset with six points apiece (6-11, min 3). With nothing at stake except pride, both Manresa and Barça threw themselves into attack. The game was fast moving and the players were accurate from long range, especially Eidson). The local fans in the Nou Congost were treated to some high-scoring and spectacular basketball.

Xavi Pascual rotated his players with good results and was able to try out a number of systems that could be used in Turkey. The team kept things simple against a defence that was perhaps a little more forgiving than usual. At the end of the first quarter, Barça Regal controlled the game 18-32, with Joe Ingles having an outstanding game, including a three-pointer from the centre of the court.

Assignia react after training by 22 points

At the start of the second quarter, Barça exhibited all the superiority of a reigning champion and shot into a 22-point lead (18-40). Up to this point Assignia had been trying to match Barça blow for blow, but local coach Jaume Ponsarnau called time out and changed tack to intensify in defence and show more aggression in attack. A run of six points boosted the locals’ confidence and with the scoreboard at 26-41, it was Pascual’s turn to interrupt proceedings.

The Manresa fight back held firm with Gladyr adding to his personal tally and the gap narrowed to ten points (33-41, min 17). A three-pointer from Eidson in the last seconds made it 37-46 at the end of the second quarter.

Less spectacle as contest evens up

After the break, both teams kept up the pace and the game became pretty well balanced. Barça had taken an early grip thanks to their accuracy in attack but now it was their seriousness in defence that kept them in front (40-51, min 5). However, it couldn’t be said that they were firmly in control. As proof of this, Assignia Manresa ran up seven consecutive points to close within just four (47-51, min 27). This final attempt at a comeback was squashed once again by Ndong and an intimidating display from Vázquez (49-58, min 30).

Ready for the Final Four

Manresa were determined to go down fighting, and pulled back to within two points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving notice that it was going to be a close finish (56-58, min 33). Just when they most needed it, Barça Regal rediscovered their shooting form and with local stars Doellman and Downs well under control, they made a final breakthrough with just minutes left on the clock (63-73, min 37). Three-pointers from Eidson and Mickeal sealed the win for the champions of the regular phase and confirmed their status as a team watch in the Euroleague Final Four.

MATCH STATS

ASSIGNIA MANRESA, 71
FCB REGAL, 77

Assignia Manresa: Rodríguez (3), Hanga (11), Gladyr (6), Doellman (11) and Asselin (18) –starting five-, Palsson, Montañez (2), Hernández (4), Achara (5), Downs (9) and Oriola (2).

FCB Regal: Sada (4), Ingles (10), Eidson (12), Wallace (6) and Ndong (17) –starting five Huertas, Perovic (6), Vázquez (9), Rabaseda (2) y Mickeal (11).

Officials: Mitjana, Peruga and Cardús


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