The man wearing number six next to the trophy would be Blazer's draftee Petteri Koponen. If you are wondering why our man is smiling and throwing up what I like to call Finnish gang-signs know that it is because his team just won the stinkin' FIBA Eurochallenge.
If Koponen's ups and downs with Virtus Bologna this season have weakened your excitement over the guy consider this: He is just 21 years old and was a factor on a very solid professional team in Europe. As always, H.T. has the rest.
Koponen bounces back, Virtus wins FIBA EuroChallengeExciting news to be sure. Now let's hope the Blazers take care of business as well.
The Final Four weekend of FIBA EuroChallenge Cup didn't begin very well for Petteri Koponen. Virtus Bologna rolled to a fairly easy 84-69 (39-34) victory over Cypriot team Proteas EKA AEL late Friday night, but Virtus coach Matteo Bonicinolli handed Koponen his first DNP-CD during his tenure as coach of the team.
Two nights later, Koponen was once again removed from his starting shooting guard position in the EuroChallenge final between Virtus Bologna and Cholet Basket of France. Koponen entered the game in the middle of second quarter and played total of 16 minutes, finishing with 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in Bologna's 77-75 (45-39) victory.
Koponen's influence on the court goes far beyond those numbers, though. Cholet Basket's shooting guard Nando de Colo was the leading scorer of the game with 24 and Virtus had major difficulties containing him. While Koponen was guarding de Colo, he could only score five points in 14 minutes. Koponen left the game for good with Virtus leading 74-63, but with Koponen sitting on the bench, de Colo answered with eight quick points which pulled Cholet within one, 76-75. De Colo had a chance to win the game with under eight seconds remaining, but his three point shot missed and Virtus celebrated the EuroChallenge Cup championship in front of home crowd of 7,750.
Koponen played 15 games in FIBA EuroChallenge Cup, starting 11 of them and averaging 5,8 points, 1,9 rebounds, 1 assist, 0,7 steals, 0,9 turnovers and 1,7 personal fouls in 18,1 minutes a game. Koponen drained 87,5% of his free throws, 58,6% of his 2pt field goals and 39,4% of his 3pt field goals.
FIBA EuroChallenge Cup campaign is now over and Virtus Bologna has three more regular season games to play in Italian Serie A. The next game will be played Thursday 30th of April against Banca Tercas Teramo, currently 5th in the league.
And, as usual, a statistical recap of Virtus' last two games:
Semifinal: Virtus Bologna - Proteas EKA AEL 84-69 (19-16, 39-34, 68-48)
Virtus: Sharrod Ford 18/13, Earl Boykins 15/1/3as, Keith Langford 13/5, Guilherme Giovannoni 10/15.
Proteas: Goran Nikolic 15/8, Quincy Taylor 13/3, Haris Mujezinovic 13/1.
Petteri Koponen: DNP-CD.
Final: Cholet Basket - Virtus Bologna 75-77 (19-21, 39-45, 57-64)
Cholet: Nando de Colo 24/4, Claude Marquis 17/10, Randal Falker 13/11 (Unfortunately Steeve Ho You Fat did not get off the bench).
Virtus: Keith Langford 21/4, Earl Boykins 18/5, Sharrod Ford 12/12.
Petteri Koponen: Min 16 3pt 1/2 Ft 1/2 Pts 4 Reb 3 As 1 To 1 Pf 2