FC Barcelona Regal won their second consecutive Liga title after beating Real Madrid by 73 to 69 in the fifth and final match of the Liga Endesa Final series. The Azulgranas won the title in the best possible venue: a jam-packed Palau Blaugrana with 7,691 fans that didn’t stop cheering on their team and who believed from the first minute of the game that the title would be Barça’s. After battling through one of the most hard-fought final series in recent memory, the 2011/12 Liga trophy will go to its permanent home, the FC Barcelona Museum.

‘In crescendo’

The two teams came out onto the court with a palpable sense of tension. Neither side wanted to commit errors that the other team could take advantage of, and that’s probably why the exact opposite happened. The first basket of the match was scored after two and a half minutes of play, and it was Madrid’s (scored by Mirotic). During this time Juan Carlos Navarro was already relegated to the bench for committing two personal fouls. Without the captain on the court the responsibility of carrying the team fell on all of the Azulgrana players. With three minutes to go in the quarter the Azulgranas had taken the lead thanks to a shot from Joe Ingles (8-6). Madrid were very close due to Sergio Llull’s incredible field-goal accuracy. That’s when CJ Wallace stepped up to the plate, who put in a notable performance in the last match against Madrid, and sunk a three-pointer which gave Barça the lead (12-10). In the next play, Xavi Pascual’s men snagged the rebound and Eidson quickly made it 14 to 10. The basked was celebrated by the player and his teammates because the hopes of Barça Regal relied on the forward’s ability to score. The Azulgranas, after Madrid had notched up two more points, closed out the first quarter with a brilliant play from Víctor Sada, who say an unmarked Fran Vázquez and dished off the assists. The teams finished the quarter with 16-12 on the scoreboard.

From run to run

After a 0 to 4 run from Real Madrid, which brought the visiting side level at 16, Xavi Pascual’s men replied with a 8 to 0 run, including two three pointers from Ingles and Sada, which took the Azulgranas to a 24 to 16 lead. Boniface Ndong, who missed the last match against Madrid, was desperate to make an impact on tonight’s game even though he wasn’t at 100%. Barça Regal watched as Real Madrid fought back through an 8 to 0 run to come within striking distance. Pascual called timeout to slow Madrid’s rhythm, and it worked: Pete Mickeal netted two points to make it 26 to 24. But it wasn’t until after Singles’ three-pointer and a basket from Reyes (28-30) made the Azulgranas spring into action. Barça quickly got back on track as the players started dominating the defensive rebound - which led to a 7 to 0 run for the home side. The score was 33 to 30 with 1 and a half minutes to go in the quarter. Vázquez employed his best play during this time as he went on to score six straight points. The teams went to the break with 39-34 on the board.

Heart-stopping final

Barça Regal came back onto the court led by Mickeal and Vázquez, the highest scorers of the game. The two Barça players made sure to state their team’s intention clearly as they increased the lead to nine points. The third quarter belonged to Vázquez, who finished with an overall evaluation of 24 thanks to his 16 points and 8 rebounds. A three-pointer from Singles brought Pablo Laso’s men within one point after a 0 to 8 run. Barça Regal fought back and the Azulgrana players managed to open a gap of nine points by the end of the third quarter (54-47).

It was time to kill off the game and Barça Regal were made to work for the title. Six straight points from the visiting team made it clear that if Pascual’s men wanted the crown they’d have to fight for it until the last second (56-53). Barça kept on scoring but the team’s interior players, Lorbek and Vázquez were forced to sit on the bench because they both had committed four fouls apiece. The home team had the advantage and they had to be careful to not let it slip away. Barça took a six-point lead and the goal was to maintain the distance, but with three minutes to go until the end Vázquez committed his fifth personal foul -he was out of the game. The player urged his team on from the sidelines and the fans followed his lead. A three-pointer from Carroll with 14 seconds to go put the fear of losing the title in the hearts of the Barça players (68-65). Personal fouls, free throws, baskets saw the visiting side creep closer to the Azulgrana lead... the tension was rising at the Palau. But the buzzer blared and the scoreboard triumphantly displayed the 73 to 69, Barça Regal had claimed the Liga title.

MATCH STATS

FCB Regal, 73
Real Madrid, 69

FCB Regal: (16+23+17+22):Huertas (4), Navarro (6), Mickeal (17), Lorbek (10), Vázquez (16) -starting five- Ingles (8), Wallace (5), Sada (5), Eidson (2) and N'Dong (-).

Real Madrid (12+22+13+22):Llull (12), Carroll (16), Suárez (2), Mirotic (10), Tomic (2) -starting five- Reyes (6), Pocius (-), Singler (12), Velickovic (1), Sergio Rodríguez (6) and Begic (2).

Referees: Juan Carlos Arteaga, Daniel Herrezuelo and José Ramón García Ortiz.