The third game of the ABA League had to bring the final decision after Spars Sarajevo surprised everyone with a close victory in the series opener at Gripe last week to put Split under pressure. The Yellows then had to win in Sarajevo on Saturday to keep their chances alive for another season in the 1st division. KK Split did tie the series with a strong appearance and followed up by winning the opener of the national playoff semi-finals on Tuesday against Cibona Zagreb.
All eyes were on Spars’ coach Modrag Kadija and his young talented squad to see if they could come up with a strategy to pull it off one more time against Split’s large and experienced roster as a highly favored side. Big man and rising star Kenan Kamenjaš had to work hard for his 11 points tonight.
In Sarajevo and against Cibona the Yellows had massive support for their inside players from their outside shooters who displayed excellent marksmanship and pulled the opposite defenders far out of the zone to give the big men more space to play one on one.
Today it was team captain Mateo Kedzo who decided the game already in the first half by scoring 13 points in only 7 minutes and 23 seconds without missing any of his attempts.
The experienced leaders Kedzo and Ulić gave the team the necessary self-confidence which they had lacked in game one.
With the large lead at half-time, Split coach Mile Karakaš was able to rotate all his players through in the second half and the team did not lose any tension. Split’s talent Perković, Bajo, and Čampara kept scoring for the favored team to further increase the lead.
The team was able to apologize for last week’s loss to veteran Toni Kukoč who was honored before the game after having been nominated to join the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this week.
Not being able to close the series in two games now puts the Yellows into a tight schedule, however. The second game in the national semifinals will be played in Zagreb tomorrow. The hosts objected to giving Split an additional 24 hours to rest. Quite a remarkable show of sportsmanship or better the lack thereof. But with Split having gained this much momentum during the last 3 games, it may well prove to have been the wrong approach by Cibona. The game will start at 18:00 at Dražen Petrović Hall.
Referees: Saša Pukl, Sašo Petek, Mario Majkić
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