Tenerife outgun tenacious Vipers to get a shot at second trophy
TENERIFE (Spain) - FIBA Intercontinental Cup 2020 hosts Iberostar Tenerife will seek on Sunday a repetition of their 2017 title success after an inspirational late burst by winger Santi Yusta propeled them to a 40-point fourth quarter to lift them over Rio Grande Valley Vipers 110-89 in an entertaining, high-scoring Semi-Final clash.
Tenerife set up an eagerly-anticipated rematch of the 2019 Basketball Champions League final against Segafredo Virtus Bologna, who defeated San Lorenzo in the first Semi-Final. The Italian team came up on top to conquer the trophy when the two sides locked horns in Belgium, last May.
Being punctual for the rematch proved anything but an easy task on Friday for Tenerife, who only managed to create some meaningful separation in the final stretch, thanks in great part to Yusta pouring in 16 points in the fourth stanza.
"I just tried to play my game and help my team, and today it worked out," Yusta said modestly after the game. "[The Vipers] play a very different style, they run a lot, they play a lot of one on one, but we controlled the rebounds and did a good job to win."
After Brandon Sampson hit a triple, 4:02 from the end of the first quarter, the G League champions came up with a steal and Isaiah Taylor scored with a layup in transition to stretch the gap to 20-12, their biggest lead all night.
Tenerife used a 12-4 run in the final three minutes of the period to edge ahead 26-24 and the two teams traded blows until the halfway point of the final quarter, in what looked destined to be a one-possession game until the very end.
A thunderous two-handed dunk by Fran Guerrero 4:14 from the end of the third frame however put the hosts in front 62-60 and was an early sign of Tenerife's intention to finish strong.
Just how strong, it only started becoming apparent when Yusta knocked down a corner three with the hosts leading 78-77 and 5:21 remaining to the final buzzer.
He followed up with a layup and drew a foul as he was rising before the three-point arc. He made all three free-throws to stretch to 86-77, Tenerife's first 9-point lead of the night.
"When we changed into zone defense and stopped their transition game, which they are obviously very good in because they are so fast, we locked in and got stops and we were able to convert on the other end, I think that was the key to the game," said Tenerife guard Gabriel Iffe Lundberg.
The Vipers stopped the rot, but the hosts would no longer be contained and they finished on a 16-3 run to seal the deal.
"We knew that they play small, playing even five men out at certain points, so we tried different things including the zone (late in the third quarter) and we counted on wearing them down. It payed it off in the end, with that final run," said Tenerife head coach Txus Vidorreta.
Yusta finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, while Gabriel Lundberg added 18 points and Giorgi Shermadini chipped in with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Jabari Brown had 15 points for the Vipers in a losing effort.