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Herbalife Gran Canaria beats Unics again to reach Eurocup Finals!

Herbalife Gran Canaria reached the Eurocup Finals for the first time in club history by downing Unics Kazan 78-76 in front of over 8,000 fans at Gran Canaria Arena on Wednesday.

Gran Canaria swept the two-game series, improved its Eurocup record to 21-1, became the first team to get over 20 wins in the competition and remained undefeated at home after 11 games. Levon Kendall paced the winners with 17 points. Eulis Baez and Kyle Kuric each scored 12, while Albert Oliver had 11 for Gran Canaria. Baez added 10 rebounds for a double-double. James White led Unics with 20 points. D’or Fischer added 17, Curtis Jerrells had 13 and Sergey Bykov 12 for the guests. An early 8-1 run, which Kuric capped with a fast break dunk, gave Gran Canaria a 14-8 advantage.

White and Jerrells helped Unics regain the lead, 14-16, but Kendall stepped up to put the hosts back ahead, 22-21, after 10 minutes. Dmitry Sokolov shined early in the second quarter and got help from Fischer and Bykov to give Unics a 28-29 edge. Kendall, Baez and Kuric led Gran Canaria to a 40-36 edge at the break. Unics improved its offense and a three-point play by Fischer gave the visitors a 53-55 advantage late in the third quarter. Oliver gave Gran Canaria a 60-59 entering the fourth quarter. Little changed after that, as Kendall sealed the outcome of the series at 70-65 with four minutes to go. Gran Canaria rounded out a perfect night by adding its 21st win in its already-unforgettable Eurocup season.

Bykov got Unics going a couple of reverse layups and a three-pointer that gave the guests a 6-7 lead. Walter Tavares made free throws and a fast break layup by Tomas Bellas put Gran Canaria ahead, 10-8. Baez beat the shot clock with an acrobatic basket and a fast break slam by Kuric caused Unics to call timeout at 14-8. White stepped up with 6 unanswered points and a layup by Jerrells gave Unics a 14-16 edge. Kendall made free throws and a tip-in by Ian O’Leary gave Gran Canaria an 18-16 advantage. After Fischer hit a baseline jumper and Rolands Freimanis added a triple, Kendall singlehandedly kept Gran Canaria ahead, 22-21, after 10 minutes.

Newley nailed a triple from the corner early in the second quarter. Dmitry Sokolov scored down, low but Kuric did even better with a big triple off a screen. Sokolov hit free throws and a jumper by Fischer kept Unics within 28-27. Bykov scored again, as the guests now controlled the game with physical defense. Kendall rescued Gran Canaria with a mid-range jumper. White struck from downtown and a power basket by Kuric tied it at 32-32. After Kendall split foul shots, Jerrells made both attempts. A three-pointer by Oliver put the hosts back ahead, 36-34. Baez and Newley hit free throws, but a dunk by Fischer fixed the halftime score at 40-36 – a 17-point Gran Canaria lead in the series.

Tavares hit a mid-range jumper right after the break, which White erased with a fast break slam. Tavares kept pushing Gran Canaria with a put-back dunk. A layup by Bellas made it an 8-point game. Fischer tried to change things with a dunk, which White followed with a layup to make it 46-42. Fischer capped a 0-7 run with a jumper, before O’Leary banked in a running shot. Bykov hit a floater, but Tavares nailed another jumper from the elbow. Jerrells kept the guests within 50-49. Oliver struck from downtown, but back-to-back three-point plays by Valeri Likhodey and Fischer gave Unics hope at 53-55. Kendall hit free throws and another triple by Oliver gave the hosts breathing room at 58-55. White and Fischer kept pushing Unics, but Oliver gave Gran Canaria to a 60-59 edge through three quarters.

Kuric buried a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, as Unics started to miss open shots. Fischer hit his trademark mid-range jumper, but a three-pointer by Baez sent the crowd to its feet at 66-61. White and Jerrells kept trying to change things for Unics, but back-to-back jumpers by Kendall sealed the outcome of the series, 70-65. Gran Canaria fans had started to celebrate a historic win, but both teams kept fighting for a prestigious victory. Free throws by Bellas allowed the hosts to finish a perfect night.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015