Luca Banchi: ''We had a very solid performance''
RIO DE JANEIRO (Brazil) – The categorical 86-64 victory that AEK achieved against San Lorenzo in the first Semi-Final game of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup left excellent impressions among the winning side. The Greek team, champions of Europe’s Basketball Champions League, got what they had come to seek in Rio de Janeiro.
“This victory allows us to play a new Final, along what that entails. We came to this Intercontinental Cup with high expectations and getting to the Final was the least we strived to do and now we're there,” commented Jonas Maciulis, author of 4 points and 5 rebounds.
Meanwhile, coach Luca Banchi added: “For us it was an essential game to win to get to the Final, which is what we all came to look for and the reason for which we did such a long trip. I'm very happy because we overcame a difficult team and because my players had a very solid performance.”
Howard Sant-Ross also talked about this initial success for AEK: “It's very important. It gives us the jolt we need to get to the Final with a lot of motivation. AEK, as a team, want to win every time they play, and each one of us wants to show what we can contribute, which is why we give 100%.”
After six very balanced minutes, AEK got ahead in the scoreboard and, from that point on, controlled the game’s development. “At the start, both teams were studying one another because we didn't really know our rival’s level. After that not-so-pleasant beginning, we were the first ones who found the rhythm we needed and that helped us to get a 10-point difference that allowed us to play more relaxed. From there on our game flowed and we showed what we usually do. They're a good team and they're athletic but they failed some free throws and didn't concrete some counterattacks, which is what they generally do,” said Lithuanian player Maciulis.
For Cuban-born Sant-Ross the key was “the defense and controlling the rebound. We took them out of their game level, and we stopped the high rhythm that they usually have.” Coach Banchi also focused on the defensive task for his team: “The key to this win was the defense, because we were able to avoid for most of the game that San Lorenzo run the court like they normally do, and we were also consistent when they attacked us five-on-five. We weren’t as accurate in the attack when facing a defense of the basket as good as the ones they have developed with Anthony and Calfani. However, when we were patient to pass the ball, we found good throws.”
Setting the ambiance for AEK’s excellent feat that will allow them to dispute the Intercontinental Cup’s Final, there was a group of fans that didn’t stop shouting and playing their drums from the first minute to the end of the game.
“AEK's fans are a valuable asset to this club. They're Greek, but not all of them live in Greece. They travelled from different parts of the world, especially from Europe, and made a great time and economic investment to be here with us. They’re convinced that they must cheer in every game where the yellow and black jerseys are present, and for us that's another reason to give our all,” stated Banchi.
According to Sant-Ross, who signed with AEK in 2018, the fans’ presence caught his attention: “I was surprised by the number of fans that travelled from so far to another continent. It was beautiful to feel the support of the fans.”
This Sunday, with that sector of Arena Carioca painted yellow and black, AEK will seek to reach the highest step in their basketball history.