BELGRADE (Reuters) - Euroleague holders Fenerbahce Istanbul and fellow heavyweights Real Madrid reached the premier club basketball competition’s final in contrasting style on Friday.
Fenerbahce cruised to a 76-67 win over Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas in the opening semi-final while Real, winners of a record nine titles, beat CSKA Moscow 92-83 after overturning a 30-20 first-quarter deficit in the Belgrade Arena.
The showdown on Sunday will be a repeat of last season’s semi-final, when Fenerbahce prevailed en route to their maiden title on home court.
CSKA, who have seven titles and reached their seventh successive Final Four, appeared to be heading for an emphatic victory after shooting guard Cory Higgins scored 10 of their opening 13 points against a disjointed Real.
However, Real turned the match on its head with six three-pointers in the second period which gave them a 47-46 lead at halftime.
CSKA fell apart in the third period as 19-year old Luka Doncic, widely expected to be among the top picks at next month’s NBA draft in New York, orchestrated Real’s offence with the maturity of an experienced stalwart.
There was no way back for the heavily-funded Russian team after they fell behind 73-61 early in the fourth quarter.
Doncic and playmaker Sergio Lull finished with 16 points apiece for Real while Tray Tompkins and Gustavo Ayon added 12 each. Frenchman Nando De Colo led CSKA with 20 points.
Roared on by 10,000 fervent supporters, Fenerbahce prevailed thanks to an ironclad defense coupled with a game-high 19 points from playmaker Ali Muhamed.
The Turkish side’s trophy-laden Serbian coach Zeljko Obradovic, chasing a record 10th title with a fifth different club, was delighted.
“It was exactly the kind of game we expected as Zalgiris are a die-hard team who never give up,” he told a news conference.
“We had a few dips but found a way to bounce back and stay ahead, thanks to great fan support among other things. We are looking forward to the final.”
Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond