It has been 13 years since KK Split had a shot to win the national basketball championship trophy. They succeeded with the help of veteran Dino Rađa who had put on the yellow jersey before he retired his career.
Three people remember those days very well. Srđan Subotić, Roko Leni Ukić, and Mateo Kedžo all were part of the last Split team to make it to the finals and win eventually. Today Subotić is the assistant coach, Kedžo is the team captain and Ukić returned to the team mid-season to have another shot at the title. They beat Cibona Zagreb in two straight games and one day more rest than the hosts.
FOTO: KK ZADAR / ŠIME ZELIĆ
In the Dalmatian derby, it is their opponent KK Zadar, however, who played the more convincing season. The two-time Croatian champion, ABA League Champion, and eight-time Croatian cup winner finished the regular season at the top and has a homecourt advantage in the Best-Of-Five finals. They start the series with two home games before the games go to Split for up to two games. Should no team have three victories by then, the final game will be played in Zadar again.
Zadar surprisingly needed 3 games to beat Gorica to make it to the finals but started into the game well tonight. Coach Veljko Mršić’s team was very focused in the first quarter and outscored the Yellows 17:7. The guest team from Split did not look good in the aerial battles and could not hit the open shots. Zadar had several offensive rebounds for additional tries and even stopped Split’s last two attacks with blocks.
It got worse for Split Coach Mile Karakaš who had to watch his team being outscored in the first 4 minutes of the second quarter by 13:3. Zadar was up 30:9 before Ukić showed a sign of life by nailing a 3 point shot. Mesiček added another one to get to 30:15.
Any hope that came up for Split did not last long. Zadar dominated the game at both ends of the court and a dunk from Onuaku to make the 48:21 just 2:28 into the second half pretty much ended the game already. The hosts increased their lead to up to 31 points at the beginning of the final quarter before letting the reigns a bit looser for the last minutes.
Split will need to come back with some kind of response in the game on Friday if they want to stay in this battle for their second Croatian national title.
The top scorer of the game was Zadar’s captain Dominik Mavra with 17 points. Chineanu Michael Onuaku scored a double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points. Split’s Blaž Mesiček was the only guest player to score double-digits (14 points).
Referees: Tomislav Hordov, Denis Hadžić, Josip Jurčević
Croatian Basketball Championship Finals schedule:
Game 2: KK Zadar – KK Split will be played on May 28, 2021, in Zadar at “Krešimir Ćosić” hall, Splitska 3, starting at 18:00 with a live broadcast at Arena Sport.
Game 3: KK Split – KK Zadar will be played on May 31, 2021, in Split, at the “Split” Basketball Hall, Ulica slobode 16 b, starting at 21:00, with a live broadcast at the Arena Sport HRT.
Game 4: KK Split – KK Zadar will be played on June 2, 2021, in Split, at the “Split” Basketball Hall, Ulica slobode 16 b
Game 5: KK Zadar – KK Split will be played on June 5, 2021 in Zadar, at “Krešimir Ćosić” hall, Splitska 3
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