Bologna captured the 2018/19 Champions League title with a 73-61 over Tenerife. MVP Kevin Punter with 26 points made his presence felt early and often as the Bronx, New York native scored in bunches throughout the 40 minutes of play. Tim Ambromaitis tried his best to pull Tenerife into contention with 18 points but it wasn’t enough on this night as Sasha Djordjevic’s squad took home the championship. Amath M’Baye dropped 16 points, Pietro Aradori scored 9 points and Mario Chalmers drilled home 8 points including the key basket with almost a minute remaining in the game. Colton Iverson was the only other Tenerife player to score in double digits as he ended the evening with 11 points.
Punter drilled home a trio of triples while M’Baye scored 9 points as well to help Bologna to a 20-8 lead after ten minutes of action. Djordjevic’s team continued to hold the advantage 38-24 after 20 minutes thanks to continued fine play by Punter and M’Baye while Tony Taylor also made his presence felt. Iverson was the dominant scorer for Tenerife as the South Dakota product dropped 8 points over the first two quarters.
Punter began the second half just as he started the first by scoring a slew of buckets. However, Davin White cut the lead to just 9 points 48-39 midway through the frame. But Bologna didn’t fret as a parade of players hit free throws to take a 58-44 lead into the final quarter. Abromaitis caught fire to cut the Bologna lead to 62-54 but Pietro Aradori answered back with authority. With the advantage down to just 6-points Mario Chalmers hit a turnaround jumper to seal the championship and send Bologna home with the Champions League title defeating Tenerife 73-61.
1) Kevin Punter was a man on a mission this weekend as he scored and scored and scored to pick up the MVP honors. He began the game by scoring three triples over Lucca Staiger as Tenerife Coach Txus Vidoretta’s gamble starting the veteran German guard didn’t exactly work out. Punter again made his mark in the second half as he ok the bull by the horns to make sure there would be no doubt who would win the title as he’s now picked up two in a many years. What a great player. Coach Djordjevic spoke about his star, “He was the star of the competition and MVP of the Final Four. I’m very thankful to him and proud to have been his coach.”
2) My big belief is that the team with the superstar player wins the one game championship and not a balanced team. Sometimes the theory works out and other times not. In this case it did as Punter is not just a star, he’s a true superstar and head and shoulders above everyone else. The Bronx born baller spoke about what his secret to success is, “I’m just constantly locked in. My mentality is that no one has a mentality like me. My mentality is through the roof. No one works like me in my opinion. Moments like this I like to strive in and let God take care of the rest.” He also talked about winning the title, “It feels amazing. This is why you work hard in the gym, this is why. It pays off.” The big question now is, where will Punter be next season after winning back to back Champions League titles, “Wherever God takes me. I’m just going to do my part and control what I can control. I’ll just continue to put the work in.”
3) Stagnant ball movement throughout the first half with Bologna dishing out 5 assists and Tenerife 4 made for some hard to watch basketball. The Spaniards shot an abysmal 8/32 from the field and 1/16 from beyond the arc after twenty minutes of action. Things didn’t get much better as they wet a horrific 3/25 overall from long distance and 14/50 overall. You’re just not going to win the game with those types of percentages. Was it Tenerife’s lack of offense or Bologna’s shut down defense? Lucca Staiger gave his thoughts, “They we’re hitting a lot of difficult shots and we didn’t make our shots, even our open shots.” Colton Iverson also shared his feelings about the game that was, “They came out and played physical from the start and aggressive. We had to rush our shots and maybe if we couldn’t have made a few more shots we would have had a chance. But credit to them they made big plays and big shots and came away with the trophy.”
Coach Djordjevic is just a master Coach, no if ands or buts about it. He knows the game inside and out and was himself a great player. He also coaches the Serbia national team as well and will be heading to the World Championships this summer. But back to what he did after joining Bologna so late in the season. “It’s very satisfying to come in very late in the season but in the end we stayed united, humble and work hard everyday. We didn’t quit on each other after some unexpected losses in the Italian League. We picked ourselves up and we managed to get the cup.” Kevin Punter also commented on his coach’s philosophy, “Coach says defense wins championship and that’s what happened. We got some stops and we came down an scored and were able to do that for 40 minutes.” But the highest compliment was paid out by Mario Chalmers, “Just being with Sasha is amazing as he’s a defensive minded coach and it reminded me of how Pat Riley runs the Miami Heat. I’m used to playing for a coach like that.”
All about Mario Chalmers
Mario Chalmers. Who would have ever thunk it that Mario Chalmers would be playing in Italy. Amazing where you can meet NBA Champs. But he was here in Antwerp and hit a big, big, big time shot for Bologna that sewed up the win for his team. The former Miami Heat Star talked about the shot, “We were struggling a bit in the second half. I saw my moment to attack and I saw the spot where I wanted to get to. I live for big moments like that. I was able to hit the shot.”
Coach Djordjevic spoke about his leader, “That was a really big shot, and he’s the emotional leader as he showed it on the floor. On the other side he had a couple of bad decisions and he should have played it better as a point guard and not as a guard. We talked about it and he understands the game perfectly and he’s the one who really played with his heart.”
What did the coach tell the point guard from his point of view? “He just told me to settle down and play the game. I was pressured in the first half and I was just trying to do everything myself and not take my time. Coach told me to settle down and enjoy the moment and not try to make the moment. That was the biggest thing for me.”
The MVP Kevin Punter reflected on Chalmers bucket, “Huge. I’m always happy when my teammates do something positive on the court. Scoring, rebounding, defending, whatever it is to help contribute to win. When he hit the I knew it was over. I knew we had it. The game had slowed down and then they had found some momentum but when he hit that it kind of slowed everything down.”
Chalmers himself reflected on the his contribution, “I was kind of struggling this game and I just wanted to leave an everlasting mark and do what I could to help the team. I was able to get to my spot and knock the shot down.” He also spoke about joining the squad just a couple of months ago, “It means a lot to me. Just for me coming back from an Achilles tear and just being through what I had been through it means a lot to have an organization take a chance on me and bring me out here. It’s a dream come true and a blessing.”
Some of his former teammates were in touch, “I got a lot of messages from my guys back home. Ray Allen hit me up and DWade hit me up they knew I was going down in this championship. It just shows that we have a brotherhood and a bond that goes beyond basketball. It means a lot to hear from those guys.”
Where does his future lie? “Whatever happens, happens and I’m going to enjoy the moment with my team and when the time comes I’ll think about it.”